Proposed Spring 2011 Commencement Speech
Jason Kopp

Many people are losing faith in this country, a country that appreciates the top 1% over the education of its children, and as graduates, maybe you are all losing faith in it too. Or maybe you are just glad to be getting out. Tuition will soon start to skyrocket, employee benefits cut, class sizes increased, and hiring frozen. In the face of these challenges, we must not be cynical or regretful, we need to remember all the opportunities and experiences that this University has provided us with, we need to remember where we are, and we need to remember all the places we are bond to go.

I can tell you right now that I don’t remember all the economic benefits of natural resources that many of us learned about in Professor Kilgore’s class. And in a few weeks I probably wont be able to tell you what step of glycolysis “dihydroxyacetone phosphate” belongs to. I have crammed and forgotten a lot of the facts and figures I learned about in many of my classes.

However… I have not forgotten what it feels like to be standing in the canopy of the tropical jungles of Costa Rica. I have not forgotten what it feels like to be apart of something bigger than myself while living in the Students’ Coop on frat row. I have not forgotten late night philosophical chats with my friends while laying on the ground of my duplex listening to music. I have not forgotten my UROP mentor and how he taught me what deleterious mutations are while we sat in his office drinking tea. I have not forgotten about the professors and advisors who have taught me how to think and guided me along this four-year path. And, of course, there are other experiences I have forgotten, some I have even forgotten the morning after. But I think they were probably great too.

College isn’t only about the things you learned while staring at all those PowerPoints in your classes, college is about the people who are sitting next to you and the doors that are now open to you, doors that are closed and bolted shut to so many others. We have all been given a gift. Take the skills you have gained and do what is meaningful to you. Travel the world and spread your knowledge. Or plant some seeds and nourish your community. Follow your heart and do what you love, never look back, and don’t look too far forward; if we all live in the now, we will flourish.

And now, your obligatory commencement speech quote: Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “We cannot enjoy life if we spend a lot of time worrying about what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. We worry about tomorrow because we are afraid. If we are afraid all the time, we cannot appreciate that we are alive and can be happy now… Life is available only in the present moment.”


Biker Killed on Campus

Today, Kimberly Yeong Sil Hull, a 25-year-old student at the U studying film, was struck and killed by a semi-truck while biking on campus at 8am on her way to school. She was going to be graduating in May. It is not yet known whose fault this is or who had the right of way. But for my thoughts on this, it does not matter. I believe everyone should look at such a horrific tragedy like this and learn and grow from it, both individually and as a community.

As someone who bikes in Minneapolis year-round, I have grown increasingly upset with the other bikers I see around the city. I see people not wearing helmets, not using lights when biking at night, and doing both of those things WHILE they are plowing through red lights (sometimes even during rush hour times of the day). When you are biking around the city, you DO have as much of a right to be on the road as a car. And I will fight for that right, no matter what. But you do NOT have MORE of a right to be on the road than a car. Bikers need to start respecting the hazards that come with biking around hundreds of two to four ton metal coffins barreling down the road at 30-40 miles per hour. We do not live in a world that is safe for bikers. And to make it a safer place, we need to abide by the rules so more people will get the fuck out of their murder weapons and hop on a pedaled steed.

Take your lane when there is construction, snow, gravel, or potholes covering the side of the road or the bike lane. Don't move over and put yourself in harms way just because there is a line of drivers behind you. Bike defensively! But wear a helmet, wear some bright lights, put at least one break on your bike (I don't care what any of you say), and abide by the rules of the road.

I don't want a driver to see some idiot on their break-less fixie running a red light while not wearing a helmet and think to themselves, "no wonder Kimberly got killed, look how people are biking these days". Fuck that. And drivers, watch out for us bikers! We are here and we are en masse. Check your blind spots and mirrors. Look both ways even if the light is green.

Don't let Kimberly’s death be in vain. Learn and grow, Minneapolis.

My thoughts go out to her family and the other injured victims of this and the other recent accidents around campus.

Star Tribune Article
Minnesota Daily Article


Undergraduate Research

This poster is the culmination of my past few months of research at the Moeller Lab in St. Paul. I will be presenting it this Wednesday (April 13th) at the Undergraduate Research Symposium from 3-4:30 in Coffman Memorial Union.

After you come to see my poster, vote for my photo which is a finalist in the 2011 UMN Study Abroad Photography contest in Heller Hall 230. Voting is open to the public all week (April 11-15).


Pollen Viability

Counted over 20,000 pollen grains of Clarkia xantiana in the past month and a half or so for my study: "Post-mating reproductive isolation and hybrid pollen sterility between two subspecies of Clarkia xantiana". Here are some photos:

Minnesota Spring