Prof William Reville has been awarded the Ireland United States Alumni Association (IUSA) Distinguished Alumni Award for 2021 in recognition of his contribution to research, science discourse and long-term commitment to the special relationship between the US and Ireland.
In association with the US embassy in Dublin, the award was presented recently at the annual conference of IUSA which was held online. It honours alumni of US exchange programmes including Fulbright scholars from Ireland who have studied in the US.
Prof Reville is an emeritus professor of biochemistry at UCC and has been a contributor to The Irish Times science page for many years.
The citation highlighted “his tremendous contribution to Irish science” through his work in UCC and to public understanding of science, notably through his columns in The Irish Times.
Prof Reville went from UCD to Iowa State University (ISU) as a Fulbright scholar in 1973. He carried out research with the ISU muscle biology group until mid-1975. On returning to Ireland, he was appointed to UCC where he introduced electron microscopy to the university.
He was appointed radiation protection officer at UCC in 1977 before joining the biochemistry department as a lecturer in 1983 where he carried out research on the biochemistry of protein turnover in skeletal muscle and continued to work on electron microscopy. He was appointed professor of biochemistry in 2001 and emeritus professor in 2012.
He served on national bodies throughout his career and came to public prominence in May 1986 when fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear explosion reached Irish shores causing widespread public consternation.
The Irish Nuclear Energy Board asked Irish universities to monitor radioactivity in food, air and water and to make this information available to local news media. This led to him writing a column for the Cork Examiner, before becoming a columnist with The Irish Times.
In 2006, he was appointed to an additional position in UCC to enhance public awareness and understanding of science; the first of its kind in an Irish university. He established one of the first university-wide modules to be offered at the college – “science and society” – open to all post first-year students and to all staff.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Prof Reville said he greatly valued the experience he gained as a Fulbright scholar – “both the professional knowledge gained and the general education received on the workings of the American system and its cultural norms” which, he added, still inform his writings.