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Quinn Memorial Endowment

In April 2005, the Psychology Department received a short, cryptic email from the UBC Development Office. In essence, the message was that a major bequest would be coming to the University within the next few months. The late donor had left instructions that his gift be used to support "pure research" in memory, consciousness, and allied areas. Our Department was being considered for the bequest, as was the Faculty of Medicine; both units were given eight days in which to prepare a written proposal to the Executor of the donor's estate.

The message was forwarded to Eric Eich (Professor and Head of the Psychology Department), who was on a personal leave of absence at the time. He returned from leave to write Psychology's proposal, with the able assistance of June Chow (Arts Coordinator with the UBC Development Office).

As Psychology's proposal was being prepared, it was learned that the donor was Dr. Michael J. Quinn: a graduate of the Psychology Department's clinical
program who had carried out pioneering research on physiological indices of psychopathology under the supervision of (now Emeritus) Professor Bob Hare. On receiving his PhD in 1969, Dr. Quinn went on to have a long and distinguished career as a clinical psychologist at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, BC.

To cut to the chase, the Executor chose our department, thus enabling the creation of an endowment that includes both Dr. Quinn's extraordinary gift ($1,400,000) and a generous supplement ($210,000) from Nancy Gallini, the Dean of Arts.

Since 2006, the annual interest on the Quinn Endowment has been used to support a number of innovative programs that were outlined in the original proposal. One such program is the annual Quinn Memorial Lecture (QML), which features cutting-edge research in the areas of consciousness, cognition, and memory that has theoretical as well as practical significance. Since UBC has relatively few "named" lecture series, the QML is a plus for the university at large as well as our own faculty and department.

The 1st Quinn Memorial Lecture was given in March 2006 by Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Nearly 300 people, including 100+ alumni of our undergraduate or graduate programs, attended her talk on Illusions of memory. Subsequent QMLs featured such similarly renowned scientists as UCLA's Robert Bjork (How we learn versus how we think we learn: Implications for the design and evaluation of instruction; March 2007), Harvard's Daniel Gilbert (Stumbling on happiness; October 2007), Washington University's Henry L. (Roddy) Roediger (The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice; April 2009), and Harvard's Daniel Schacter (Constructive memory: Remembering the past to image the future; October 2009). An important benefit of this series is that it provides psychology students (graduate and undergraduate alike) an opportunity to learn first-hand about some of the most innovative and influential research in the field, which is apt to spark or steer their interests in pursuing a career in research themselves.

The Quinn Endowment also allows the Department to fund two new initiatives that aim to strengthen and support the research activities of our undergraduate majors and graduate students.

One initiative--the Quinn Exchange Fellowship (QXF) program--enables several of our graduate students (as many as three per year) to visit and work in comparable research labs at major universities, anywhere in the world, for up to a year, provided that similarly talented students from those same labs come here to study and work with us, for about the same amount of time and under comparable conditions. (For details and application forms, go here.) Given that the classmates of today are the colleagues of tomorrow, this exchange program helps our grad students build interpersonal bridges (a good thing, job-wise) and acquire new scientific skills and know-how (which they can later share students and faculty here at home). At the same time, our students serve as excellent ambassadors not only for UBC, but also for the Faculty of Arts and the Department of Psychology. The initial exchange took place in 2006 between Katie Yoshida, a doctoral student in our developmental program (supervised by Professor Janet Werker), and Naoto Yamane, a student of language development at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Wako, Japan. Subsequent QXFs have involved students from Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States who temporarily "swapped" places with our own students.

The second initiative--the Quinn Research Travel Grant (QRT) program--enables as many as 15 undergraduates per year to present their work at major research conferences (Association for Psychological Science, Canadian Psychological Association, Psychonomics, Society for Neuroscience, to name just a few) or to pursue interesting research problems that cannot be tackled here. For instance, Sabrina Chow, a student of Professor Emeritus Peter Suedfeld, traveled to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC to enrich her Honours project on the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany. Eligible students include BA and BSc Psychology majors, as well as their counterparts in the Cognitive Systems program. (For details and application forms, go here.) The Psychology Department is proud to have over 200 Majors who are actively involved in all areas of psychological research and whose work is supervised by one or more faculty members. Though the latter are typically very supportive of their graduate students and postdocs (financially as well as spiritually), they rarely have enough extra funds available to cover research-related travel costs for their most deserving undergrads. Now the Department, thanks to the Quinn Endowment, can pitch in to help.

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