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Kara Gabriel Interview

What's your favorite quote?

For me, quotes are about remembering special moments so my favorite quote is my husband’s response of “Go up” whenever I ask for advice while rock-climbing.

What drew you to the field?

I’m fascinated by the complexity in which biological systems influence our emotions, thoughts, and behavior.  Being a researcher is a lot like being a detective but without the car chases and guns.

How did your college experience affect you?

I always thought I’d go into clinical psychology but when I did an undergraduate honors thesis in my senior year, I realized how much I enjoyed research.  I just kept following the path that interested me most.

How did you end up in Ellensburg?

I was in a faculty position in San Francisco but couldn’t survive the traffic and cost-of-living.  Central appealed because of the small class sizes, the presence of both graduate and undergraduate students, and programs such as Science Honors and McNair Scholars that support undergraduate students in research.

Ellensburg’s proximity to hiking, backpacking, rock-climbing, mountaineering, kayaking (with a drive to the coast), visiting friends in Vancouver BC and Portland, and snowboarding was perfect.

What is your favorite class to teach?

I teach research methods as well as courses that link biology and psychology. My favorite classes are the ones in which the students are engaged and interested in the material.

Research underway:

Some projects are driven by the interests of undergraduate and graduate students so those change from year to year.  My research interests include developmental effects on psychopharmacology and sex differences in perception.

Grants (anticipated)

I’ve been fortunate to have several grants funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and I hope to continue funding through them in the future.

University Service

I’ve served on a variety of Departmental and University committees.  I probably volunteer for more committees than I should but I value the opportunity to meet faculty from other Departments and learn more about the workings of the University.

Philosophy of teaching

Teaching is about sharing both information and a sense of curiosity in the world. 

Greatest Accomplishment and Awards

neurotransmitterFor me, life consists of many small accomplishments both in work and life.  One of my favorite work accomplishments was when a student told me they’d been talking about alcohol, the brain, and neurotransmitters at a party.


Professional organizations:

I’m involved in a range of organizations in neuroscience, psychology, and drug addiction, including the Research Society on Alcoholism, the American Psychological Association, and the Society of Neuroscience.

Interviews Given / Awards

I’ve won a few awards over the years for research in my field but the one that I value the most was the Psychology Professor of the Year from the Psi Chi Chapter at California State University-East Bay.


Anything that gets me outside.

Special Interests (travels)

For my career, I’ve lived in some great places including Madison WI, Vancouver BC (for grad school), Boston MA, Portland OR, and San Francisco.  I enjoy the chance to experience places as a “local”.

Favorite Vacation Spot

Yosemite ChapelAnyplace outside.  My husband and I spent so many weekends in Yosemite when we lived in San Francisco that we ended up getting married there.

An interesting thing that happened to you

My husband proposed to me on a backpacking trip to Mt. Whitney (the highest mountain in the lower-48).  We’d gotten lost and hadn’t showered in days.  Two days before my birthday, at the top of Whitney, he pulled out a ring and asked me to marry him. 

Hidden Talents

I’m not good at keeping things secret; what you see, is what you get.

If you could do anything, what would you do?

Fly like superman.

Did you have a profession before becoming a psychology professor?

Before focusing on teaching, I was fortunate to have research positions at Harvard Medical School and Oregon Health & Sciences University.

Most meaningful experience

Any day when the teaching is good is meaningful.  Any day when the climbing is good is meaningful.  Any day that I spend with those I care about is meaningful.

Childhood Hero

I don’t remember.  I was a child.

What was your family of origin like?

Both my parents and my sister value education, nature, and experiencing life to its fullest.  I’m also lucky to have many friends with the same philosophy who I’ve added to my family over the years.

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