The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

Dr. Daniel Proud: Moravian’s Friendly University Spider-Man

Photo Courtesy of Logan Palau
Photo Courtesy of Logan Palau

If you look at the Bethlehem skyline, what do you expect to see? Unlike the comics the world has learned to love, we won’t be seeing some teenage boy swinging from building to building in a red jumpsuit calling himself everyone’s “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.” 

Instead of Peter Parker, Moravian has Dr. Daniel Proud. 

As opposed to super strength and Spidey-Senses, Proud redefines what we view as a superhero by inspiring others through his fascinating research on arachnids, supportive nature, and, above all, being a stellar human being.

Like all good superheroes, everyone has their origin story. Proud grew up in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh, where his passion for biology grew in a small stone quarry near his home. A friend’s father was a Master Scuba Diver, who sparked his drive to become a biologist and helped Proud hone his scuba skills.

Despite these passions, Proud didn’t initially head to college wanting to pursue biology. When he entered Virginia Wesleyan College (now University), he intended to major in math with a focus on becoming a secondary education teacher.  His plans quickly changed when his advisor at the time encouraged him to pursue his passions, which were exploring the outdoors, biology, and scuba. Changing his entire schedule to fit in a biology course changed the entire trajectory of his life, and he ended up graduating as a double math and biology major and leaving the idea of secondary education behind. 

Proud then enrolled at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to pursue a PhD in environmental and evolutionary biology. Continuing the passion for research that he flourished as an  undergraduate, Proud began to work on the same research that he does today: exploring the evolutionary and biogeographical mechanisms that generate biodiversity and genetic evolution in Opiliones (Commonly known as Daddy Long Legs) throughout the neotropics. 

This passion for Opiliones led him to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for two years of post-doctoral research. Continuing the same research with Argentina’s Natural Science Museum in an Arachnology lab, he worked with mentor and collaborator Abel Péres González. To this day, they still work together on furthering the projects they started together during Proud’s time in Argentina.

Proud shares the same passion for research and exploration with his students at Moravian. In homage to another Opiliones researcher, Shahan Derkarabetian, an Entomology Curator at the San Diego Natural History Museum, Dr. Proud proudly claims that he and his lab can be considered the “Opiliones Opilihomies.” 

As leader of Moravian’s Opilihomies, Proud’s philosophy in the lab and as a teacher is to help students take on new experiences that they might not have seen themselves tackling otherwise. He encourages students to bring their personal passions into the lab and explore the same Opiliones that he’s been researching his entire career. 

An exciting piece of this research stems from the fact that about half of the species that Proud works with throughout the Neotropics are currently unidentified, giving him and his students an opportunity to describe new species both morphologically and genetically, all to see how they relate to the rest of the Opiliones world.

Although he might not naturally produce webs from his wrists, Proud has a unique superpower that he brings to his lab, and that’s his power of collaboration. 

In viewing his peers and students as collaborators or potential ones, Proud strives to give them  the opportunity to explore their work professionally. In working alongside students to generate important data within their field of study, Proud not only works to crack away at the infinite questions of Opiliones research but also works alongside students in a way that benefits both science and his community. 

While his career is a major focus in his life, Proud is a  husband and a father of two daughters, Clodagh and Maeve. Fatherhood has been a great piece of his life recently, and being able to have a family has been a great source of pride for him, especially when he sees his daughter getting as excited about nature as he is. 

Outside of the lab, Proud travels, hikes, camps, and does photography. He says that someday soon he will get back into ice hockey, another early passion.

No good hero is without an equally dastardly villain, and unfortunately for Dr. Proud, his villain is the myriad of viruses his daughter picks up from daycare and school. There may be more times than he can count on both hands in which Proud has lost his voice or was knocked down by some illness transmitted from the quarantine hotspot that is a daycare. 

While he’s never let this inhibit his ability to teach, this chapter of Proud’s duel against sickness isn’t over yet, as his newly adopted youngest, Maeve, will be going through the viral gauntlet soon. Proud plans to keep his hopes strong – and his immune system stronger.

While he may not be teaming up with the Avengers or beating up other professors at Moravian who have mechanical octopus arms, Proud, against all odds, is a superhero in his own right. 

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

Any comments that are considered racist, sexist, using expletives or slurs, based on factually inaccurate information, or are derogatory in any way will be deleted.
All The Comenian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    Sara McClellandOct 27, 2023 at 7:40 pm

    I love this piece so much, Todd! You capture Dr. Proud so well with such creative and engaging writing. Great piece!!!