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February 2004 Issue

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For the Love of Science

Published February 2004

On Valentine’s Day, we think of couples in love sharing a romantic candlelight dinner, but how about couples who work together? Is this good for the relationship? Does working with your spouse change things? Five couples at the UC Medical Center share their thoughts.

Karen and Erik Knudsen

Karen and Erik Knudsen are scientists who work together at the Vontz Center for Molecular Studies. Erik Knudsen, PhD, is an associate professor and researcher in the Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology, and Anatomy. Karen Knudsen, PhD, is an assistant professor, researcher, and director of the graduate program in cellular and molecular biology. The Knudsens met on their first day of graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, and have been married for eight years.

“There are many benefits to working together at UC,” said Karen. “For example, when one of us is away at a conference, the other can drop by the absent partner’s lab and make sure things are going smoothly. We also keep each other informed about seminars, potential collaborations, and programs around the campus. Of course, being able to have an occasional lunch together is a plus.”

Karen and Erik have a four-year-old son and a newborn baby.

“Working together helps our relationship,” said Karen. “Carpooling each morning is a great way to ‘talk shop’ without interfering with busy family life at home. Our son has a limited capacity to hear about cancer biology over dinner.”

Michael Lehman and Lique Coolen

Michael Lehman and Lique Coolen work together at the Vontz Center in the Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy. Michael Lehman, PhD, is professor and the vice-chairman for research. Lique Coolen, PhD, is an associate professor and researcher. Michael and Lique have been married for six years. They met at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in 1995, at a dinner hosted by Michael’s former graduate advisor from the University of Michigan.

“I saw Lique at a distance from across the table and it was love at first sight,” said Michael. “She, of course, was skeptical. She knew my name from the scientific literature but she thought I was a much older guy.”

“Since we work together in similar areas of neuroscience, and share similar interests, our labs interact quite a bit and benefit tremendously from sharing data and techniques,” said Lique. “We even have a weekly joint lab meeting. On a personal level, we share ideas, and edit each other’s papers and grant proposals. Working together allows us to share taking care of our infant daughter, Isabel, when she is not in day care.”

The two worried about how working together would affect their relationship.

“ We both agreed early on not to talk about science 24 hours a day,” said Michael. “Of course, Isabel now helps divert our attention from science as well.”

Donna and Arthur Buckley

Donna and Arthur Buckley work together at the UC College of Pharmacy. Arthur Buckley, PhD, is a professor of pharmacology and physiology and a biomedical researcher. Donna Buckley is a principal research assistant. Donna and Art have been married for 21 years. They met at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Tucson, Ariz., when Art was a graduate student at the University of Arizona and Donna was a respiratory therapy student at Arizona College. “I think the positive thing is teamwork,” said Donna. “We are working together toward personal and professional goals. It helps our relationship because we each have our own individual skills that come together in a synergistic way.”

Michael and Amy Reed

Michael and Amy Reed work together in the UC Department of Surgery and the VA Medical Center. The Reeds are both surgeons and assistant professors at UC. They met during surgery residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard and have been married for five years.

“We are both surgeons, so our hours at the hospital can be unpredictable, and often long,” said Michael. “With both of us at UC, we can occasionally meet for lunch or a cup of coffee, and we also see each other at conferences and even poke our heads into each other’s operating rooms.”

“Working together at UC helps our relationship because we understand our spouse’s demanding and irregular schedule,” said Amy. “But we also share in the innumerable rewards of practicing at a prestigious academic medical center, enjoying challenging clinical cases, teaching students and residents, and pursuing research.

Jim Lockey and Grace LeMasters

Jim Lockey and Grace LeMasters work together in the UC Department of Environmental Health. Jim Lockey, MD, MS, is professor and director of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Grace LeMasters, PhD, is a professor of epidemiology and a research scientist. Jim and Grace have been married for 13 years. They met in 1980 at UC when Jim was a student completing an occupational and environmental medicine fellowship and Grace was a PhD graduate student studying epidemiology.

“We are both in the environmental health field and bring a different expertise to this particular discipline,” said Jim. “This helps create a positive climate for problem solving in environmental health research. In addition, with both of us working in a similar academic environment, our sensitivity and level of understanding toward academic stressors is shared.”

“Working together has been a very positive influence in our relationship,” said Grace. “ We can collaborate on research and attend scientific conferences together. A negative aspect is there is not a lot of ‘down time’ from our professional life when we are not at the university.

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