While pursuing her doctoral degree in the 1990s, USC Aiken Professor Dr. Maureen Carrigan developed an interest in how people negatively cope with stress and depression by turning to alcohol and tobacco use.


Her work in that field and with her undergraduate and graduate students at USCA led to major recognition from the University of South Carolina earlier this week.


Carrigan is one of three winners of the Carolina Trustee Professorship and will receive a $2,000 award from the USC Board of Trustees. Two awards went to USC campus professors. Carrigan received the only award given to a professor from another USC system campus.


Addictions to alcohol and tobacco alone can lead to serious health issues. In combination with depression and stress, Carrigan said, people can find greater difficulty in quitting smoking and consuming alcohol.


“There are still significant numbers of people who continue to smoke, and more younger people are turning to smoking,” she said.


In periods of stress, said Carrigan, people may drink alcohol, and the brain indicates to them they feel better. According to a press release, Carrigan’s research is intended to determine the functions these substances can negatively offer to people. Such efforts could lead to more productive treatment programs.


Those in the military with one or more deployments also may have a higher risk of substance abuse in the areas of alcohol and tobacco, Carrigan said.


“I am pleased and proud that Dr. Carrigan received the Carolina Trustee Professorship,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Dr. Jeff Priest in the press release. “Dr. Carrigan is a valued member of the USC Aiken family, and the award is well-deserved. Receiving the award is a testament to her dedication and hard work.”


Carrigan graduated from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia with a degree in psychology in 1991. Seven years later, she did a predoctoral internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. Carrigan then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology that same year at the State University of New York at Binghamton.