Student Stories: Matthew Bonnan

Matthew Bonnan

Major: Earth Science 

In 2004, Matthew Bonnan and three fellow researchers 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. Bonnan and his colleagues published a report on the new dinosaur, called the Pulanesaura. Read more about the discovery on Bonnan’s blog, The Evolving Paleontologist.

Since then, Bonnan and his colleagues have discovered and described two more new species of dinosaurs in South Africa. Bonnan credits his start at College of DuPage with success in his field.

“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.”

The vertebrae paleobiologist graduated from the College in 1993. He then earned his bachelor’s in Geological Sciences from UIC and a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Northern Illinois University. Bonnan has published a book on the evolution of the vertebrate skeleton, “The Bare Bones: An Unconventional Evolutionary History of the Skeleton,” as well as 20 peer-reviewed articles on dinosaurs, reptiles, mammals and sharks.

After working as an associate professor at Western Illinois University, Bonnan currently is an associate professor of biological sciences at Stockton University in New Jersey.

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

In 2016, Bonnan was named one of COD’s Distinguished Alumni. He 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