UCD chemistry graduate Dervilla Donnelly has led a multi-faceted career combining outstanding contributions in research and teaching with leadership in science policy and broader public service. Following her B.Sc and Ph.D. from UCD and postdoctoral studies at UCLA, she returned to UCD as a lecturer in chemistry in 1956. She rapidly gained international renown in her field of phytochemistry, the study of chemicals with biological activity derived from plants, and was appointed professor of phytochemistry in 1979. Wood chemistry was a particular interest, and she applied her research to a variety of problems encountered within the Irish forestry industry.
Donnelly's commitment to European research saw her elected chairman of the European Science Research Council and vice-president of the European Science Foundation. She was the first woman president of the Royal Dublin Society and chairman of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, the Custom House Docks Development Authority and the National Education Convention.
In 2000 Dervilla Donnelly received the UCD Charter Day medal, for her many contributions to the country and to the university. Of these contributions, she is particularly proud of her eighty Ph.D. students, many of whom have themselves won considerable distinction in academia, industry and business.