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Dean Kopsell: Veggie Researcher, Softball Coach, Twin

Dave Kopsell (left) and Dean Kopsell (right) attend an American Society of Horticultural Sciences meeting.

Dave Kopsell (left) and Dean Kopsell (right) attend an American Society of Horticultural Sciences meeting.

At UT: Dean Kopsell, a professor of plant sciences, has been at UT since 2004. He leads a research program that emphasizes cultural, environmental, and genetic influences on the phytonutritional value of vegetable crops. He also teaches an introductory horticulture class. He enjoys mentoring top students through the research process. “The students get help in the lab and get to have a great hands-on research experience,” he said. His favorite crops are members of the Brassicas—kale, broccoli, and mustard. They are relatively easy to grow and pack the most nutritional values of all the vegetables, he said. His current research is focusing on the application of LEDs for lighting in crop production. “Results thus far show increases in phytonutrients using red and blue LED lights, as compared to white light. It is cutting-edge and exciting research,” he said.

Kopsell is the research division vice president for the American Society of Horticultural Science. He has received several awards from the UT Institute of Agriculture including the 2013 J. E. Moss Achievement Award for Research and the 2009 T. J. Whatley Distinguished Young Scientist Award.

Why he chose this field: “My family owned a tree nursery when I was growing up,” said Kopsell, who was born and raised in Illinois. “I’ve been involved in horticulture since I was four years old.”

After completing his bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from Illinois State University in 1992, Kopsell moved back home to help his father run the nursery. After his family decided to sell the business, Kopsell enrolled in the University of Georgia, where he earned his master’s degree and doctorate in horticulture.

Dean Kopsell and his wife, Jennifer, along with their older daughter, Allison, and younger daughter, Caroline, at a recent CASNR event.

Dean Kopsell and his wife, Jennifer, along with their older daughter, Allison, and younger daughter, Caroline, at a recent CASNR event.

Outside Interests: Kopsell has two daughters, ages 10 and 12, and can be found coaching their softball team, helping with homework after school, and shuttling them to activities. He enjoys gardening and home improvement projects. “It’s very therapeutic to do something with my hands,” he said. “Most of my work is conceptual, so it’s very rewarding to grow or build something tangible.”

Favorite movie: “I love comedy,” Kopsell said. “Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein is one of my all-time favorite movies.”  

If I didn’t do this, I’d: “Be a vegetable farmer.”

Two peas in a pod: “I have an identical twin brother who is also a professor of horticulture, at Illinois State University,” he said. “It’s so fun to collaborate on research and teaching projects with him.”

Kopsell also teaches a freshman class about twins. The class is a part of the Chancellor’s Honors Program and explores the basic biology of twins, the influence twins have on each other throughout childhood, how twins are perceived in media, and more.

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