Student Spotlight: Matthew Bonnan

Matthew Bonnan

Matthew Bonnan
Major: Earth Science 

Matthew Bonnan is one of four researchers who discovered a new species of dinosaur in South Africa.

The “earth claw” dinosaur is about 195 million years old and measures about 20 feet long. Aardonyx celestae is a species sauropod, the largest animals to walk on earth. While sauropods reached their pinnacle during the late Jurassic period, little has been known of the species from the early Jurassic period until the discovery in South Africa.

While the discovery took place in 2004, Bonnan and several colleagues published a report on the new dinosaur, called the Pulanesaura, in 2015. Click here to read more about the discovery on Bonnan’s blog.

Bonnan credits his start at COD with his success in his field. The vertebrae paleobiologist graduated the College in 1993.

“As the oldest of six children from a working class family, I didn’t have a lot of resources to attend college,” he said. “The start I got at COD allowed me to matriculate at the University of Illinois at Chicago.”

Bonnan earned his bachelor’s in Geological Sciences from UIC and a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Northern Illinois University. He currently is an associate professor of biological sciences at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

“I also teach a freshman seminar dinosaur class that uses dinosaurs to engage students with how science works,” he said.

Bonnan will always remember the help he received from the COD faculty, particularly Professor Mark Sutherland, and their enthusiastic approach to teaching.

“Unlike other professors I encountered later at larger universities, Mark demonstrated that good, in-depth science teaching could be inclusive rather than exclusive,” he said. “Mark showed me that a good professor is a facilitator, not a gatekeeper.”

More about the Earth Science program