Scholarship honours legacy - and non-traditional path - of Dr. Doris Babstock

Aug 23rd, 2022

Kelly Foss

Looking for a new experience following the death of her mother in 1983, Dr. Doris Babstock decided to take a few courses at Memorial University.

She discovered that she enjoyed academic life so much that she decided to attend full time, leaving her successful banking career behind.

In 1990 at the age of 48, Dr. Babstock graduated with a B.Sc.(Hons.) in psychology and received the University Medal for Academic Excellence in Psychology in recognition of her outstanding record.

Encouraged by her honours supervisor, Dr. Carolyn Harley, now a professor emeritus at Memorial, Dr. Babstock continued academic studies in behavioural neuroscience, and completed her PhD in 2000.

‘Exceptional wife, mother and scholar’

Dr. Babstock had completed two years of academic course work and research required towards a master’s degree when Dr. Harley convinced her she was ready to jump ahead and carry out a full doctoral program.

She won a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Fellowship Award for her doctoral studies, which focused on sex-related differences in early brain development in a critically important memory structure.

“Dr. Babstock had the heart and mind of a natural scientist,” said Dr. Harley. “Although coming late to this avocation, she published four first-author papers. Her doctoral work was the first ever to report on the development of testosterone sex hormone receptors post-natally in both female and male brains.”

Following her death in 2019, her family – husband, Reginald Babstock (B.Eng.’66), and daughters, Cindie (B.Comm.(Hons.)’86), Caryn, who completed a bachelor of math degree at the University of Waterloo, and Krista (B.Eng.’96), established a scholarship at Memorial in memory of Dr. Babstock: an exceptional wife, mother and scholar.

Non-standard path

During the Department of Psychology’s annual Research Day event this past April, the award was presented for the first time.

Valued at a portion of the income on the endowment, the scholarship is to be awarded based primarily on academic merit to a full-time student entering Memorial’s master’s of science in experimental psychology degree program and is renewable for a second year.

Preference is given to a behavioural neuroscience student who, like Dr. Babstock, has taken a non-standard path during their academic year.

Four people in masks stand in front of a multi-coloured block wall.
From left are Caryn, Reginald and Cindie Babstock with Mark Corrigan at Psychology Research Day in April.

Mark Corrigan, the inaugural winner of the award, certainly fits the bill. He started his master’s in experimental psychology in September 2021.

He came to Memorial after completing a bachelor of technology degree with distinction in Ontario.

Mr. Corrigan then pursued a postgraduate certificate program in psychology, completing major courses in psychology research methods and statistics, positive psychology, psychopharmacology, addiction and more.

Unique strengths

“Mr. Corrigan’s experience as a contract lecturer in media and management-related courses at Ryerson University led to an opportunity to become actively involved in implementing a program that brought mindfulness training and practices into the university classroom,” said Dr. Francis Bambico, assistant professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science at Memorial, and Mr. Corrigan’s supervisor.

Dr. Bambico also said that over time, Mr. Corrigan developed a keen interest in neuroscience-related technological innovation, and in cognitive and computational neuroscience, and how these can be used as tools for the promotion of wellness and positive psychology.

“While his career path is convoluted and non-standard, it is precisely his diverse experiences in varied but related and relevant fields that have enriched a multi-disciplinary perspective I believe will be profitable in the progress of our research programs.”

Inaugural award

Mr. Corrigan’s current master’s project employs rodent models to investigate the progression of depressive disorder from the initial manifestation of cognitive dysfunction, such as rumination, negative thinking and cognitive inflexibility.

“Hearing of Dr. Babstock’s journey into neuroscience has further reinforced my decision to return to school.”— Mark Corrigan

He uses behavioural and electrophysiological techniques to understand the neural mechanisms and circuit dynamics that mediate the cognitive origins of depression, with a goal of informing the development of behavioural and drug interventions that will more effectively prevent the progression of depressive disorders.

“I am honoured and extremely fortunate to receive the inaugural Dr. Doris Babstock award,” said Mr. Corrigan. “I cannot thank the family enough for their generosity, as well as their recognition of the challenges involved in taking a non-standard path to graduate studies. The extra funding will enable me to put more into my research and learning, and hearing of Dr. Babstock’s journey into neuroscience has further reinforced my decision to return to school.”