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Manahan returns to his roots

USC biologist is named an honorary fellow of the Welsh university where he earned his doctorate

Donal Manahan at Bangor University
Donal Manahan, left, with Bangor University Vice Chancellor John Hughes (Photo/courtesy of Bangor University)

Donal Manahan, professor of biological sciences and vice dean for students at the USC Dornsife College for Letters, Arts and Sciences, has been appointed an honorary fellow of Bangor University in Wales. Manahan was honored for his contributions to science and in particular for the many scientific research and educational expeditions he has led to the Antarctic during his 31-year career at USC Dornsife.

Manahan was formally awarded the fellowship during the degree ceremony held at Bangor University on July 15. The ceremony was followed by a dinner at which Manahan was asked to speak on behalf of the new fellows.

When this recognition comes from a place that helped form you, it is something very personal and special.

Donal Manahan

The honorary fellowship is a prestigious award bestowed by Bangor University on an annual basis to distinguished individuals who have a connection with the university, or with Wales, and who have made an outstanding contribution to their chosen field.

Honored and humbled

“Anytime you are recognized for your contributions to your chosen field by professional colleagues makes you feel honored and humbled,” Manahan said. “When this recognition comes from a place that helped form you, it is something very personal and special.”

Honorary fellowships have been awarded at Bangor University for the last 20 years with more than 150 individuals honored.

Manahan enrolled at Bangor in the late 1970s to earn his Ph.D. in biological sciences after receiving his undergraduate degree from Trinity College, The University of Dublin, in his native Ireland.

He credits Bangor, a major center of excellence in the United Kingdom for the study of the environment, with having a formative impact on his scientific career.

“Bangor University is where my career really blossomed in the sense of thinking about the world of research,” Manahan said. “The greatest gift they gave me was encouraging me to think about the world of biology from the point of view of biochemistry to study how organisms adapt to the environment. Now, of course, that is a more common field of study, but more than 30 years ago, I was fortunate to be part of a group that was already thinking about this in very sophisticated ways.”

A rare distinction

Manahan, who has worked many seasons in Antarctica since 1983 studying the developmental physiology of marine animals and who was chair of the Polar Research Board at the National Academy of Sciences, has a mountain in Antarctica named after him for his contributions to science and education on the seventh continent.

The 6,000-foot high Manahan Peak is located near the U.S. Antarctic research center at McMurdo Station, a couple of miles from where polar explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton set up their base for the push to the South Pole during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration at the turn of the 20th century.

“I think my most important contribution to science might be that I helped to train the next generation of project leaders at a time when change and adaptation on the planet is of vital importance,” said Manahan, the former director of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, housed at USC Dornsife.

“My contributions to both research and education matter to me a great deal. What is most important to me is that balance between innovative research and innovative teaching.”

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Manahan returns to his roots

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