Professor David McConnell

Image of Professor David McConnell

Professor David McConnell graduated from Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin in 1966 with a First and Gold Medal in Genetics. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1971.

He returned to Trinity College Dublin in 1970, as a Lecturer in Genetics, and continued his attempt to isolate and analyse a regulatory gene called a promoter, using the just-discovered genetic "scissors" called restriction enzymes. In 1976-77, Professor McConnell travelled to Harvard University, with an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellowship from the IUAC, to apply Walter Gilbert's revolutionary method of DNA sequencing to a promoter.

On his return he lead the development of genetic engineering and biotechnology in Ireland, publishing widely on molecular genetics. He succeeded George Dawson as Head of Genetics in 1987 and was appointed Professor of Genetics in 1990. Teaching and research in genetics was expanding rapidly, stimulated by the endowment of the Smurfit Chair of Medical Genetics (1989) and the building of the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity in 1998.

Professor McConnell was elected a Fellow in 1978 and served as Chair of Fellows (2009-2014). He became a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (M.E.M.B.O) in 1976 and of the Royal Irish Academy (M.R.I.A) in 1984. He also held a number of College Offices in Trinity College Dublin; Vice-Provost for the Quatercentenary (1991-92), Registrar (1997-99) and Vice-Provost (1999-2001).

He has acted as advisor to a number of research initiatives such as the establishment of Science Foundation Ireland (2000), and the European Research Council (ERC) Group which reported (2003) on the importance of a Europe-wide competitive research programme focused on excellence. The ERC was founded in 2007.

Professor McConnell was Chairman of the Adelaide Hospital, President of the Zoological Society of Ireland, Chairman of Fota Wildlife Park and Chairman of the Irish Times Trust. He is an Honorary Life Member of the Royal Dublin Society(2009) and Honorary President of the Humanist Association of Ireland (2009).

Four generations of his family have graduated from the University of Dublin. Jane Wells, his great-aunt, was one of the first group of women to enter Trinity in 1904. His mother, Joan Warwick, and two sons, Andreas and Owen, graduated in History. He is President of the College Historical Society (2003) of which he was Auditor (1964-65). He shares with his wife, Janet, a passion for gardening three semi-wild acres beside the sea on Kenmare Bay.

Professor McConnell was elected as the 58th Pro-Chancellor of the University in 2016.