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Kelvin Davies, Enrique Cadenas named officers of France’s National Order of Merit

Award recognizes their contributions and service to science and international cooperation.

USC professors obtain France's National Order of Merit
Vassilios Papadopoulos, Enrique Cadenas, French Consul General Christophe Lemoine, Kelvin J. A. Davies, Pinchas Cohen and C. L. Max Nikias, from left, are seen at the consul general’s residence. (USC Photo/Orli Belman)

USC Professors Kelvin J. A. Davies and Enrique Cadenas have been named officers of France’s National Order of Merit, a prestigious award and honor bestowed by the president of France that recognizes their contributions and service to science, international cooperation and France.

Davies, the James E. Birren Professor of Gerontology and dean of faculty at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, is among the world’s leading experts on free radicals, oxidative stress, and adaptation biology and medicine. Cadenas, the Charles Krown/Alumni Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the USC School of Pharmacy, is a top scientist exploring the role of mitochondrion-centered processes in neurodegenerative diseases, with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease. Both Davies and Cadenas have joint appointments in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Davies has an additional joint appointment in Molecular and Computational Biology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Davies and Cadenas have long-term ongoing research collaborations with French colleagues and together have organized several international scientific conferences in France and the U.S. on the biological causes of aging and age-related diseases.

President, dean join with USC professors honored by France

On Tuesday, they received their warrants and medals at the Beverly Hills residence of the consul general of France. USC President C. L. Max Nikias, USC Leonard Davis School Dean Pinchas Cohen and USC School of Pharmacy Dean Vassilios Papadopoulos attended the ceremony.

Professors Davies and Cadenas are scholars, researchers and pioneers who represent the very best of USC.

C. L. Max Nikias

“Professors Davies and Cadenas are scholars, researchers and pioneers who represent the very best of USC,” said Nikias. “Through their groundbreaking work, they have expanded cooperation with colleagues around the world, led the fight against aging and disease and advanced human lifespans. The entire university community congratulates them on this well-deserved honor.”

Established in 1963 by President Charles de Gaulle, the National Order of Merit recognizes work that has societal significance beyond a recipient’s own field. New recipients are named knights and can ascend to higher ranks as new merits are established. Davies and Cadenas were made knights in 2012, and their promotion to the officer rank recognizes their exceptional continued contributions.

“I am deeply honored by this promotion, for which most of the credit must go to my students, postdoctoral fellows, colleagues and family,” Davies said. “Of course, the support of USC leaders such as Max Nikias, [USC Provost] Mike Quick and Hassy Cohen has been invaluable. French President Emmanuel Macron has said that, ‘There is no Planet B.’ If we are to improve the human condition and the health of our environment we must cooperate and collaborate globally.”

Said Cadenas: “I have had opportunities to partner with some extraordinary researchers and institutions around the world on work that has been highly productive and deeply rewarding. … To be honored for that work is icing on the cake.”

The two USC honorees will travel to France in July for a ceremony marking their promotions.

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Kelvin Davies, Enrique Cadenas named officers of France’s National Order of Merit

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