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Dean and David
Salt and pepper: identical twin professors Dean, left, and David Kopsell, right, make a good team. Photo by Gary Samson

Double Take

"New twin studies show the career of your dreams may be the career of your genes," trumpets the headline in the November issue of Psychology Today. Dean and David Kopsell may be living proof of that pronouncement. Identical twins, they received doctoral degrees from the same university (Georgia), were hired by the same UNH department (plant biology), in the same month (August), to study the same thing (horticulture). Their jobs are slightly different, though. Dean Kopsell investigates how plants can take up nutrients more efficiently, and Dave Kopsell puts research into action as an assistant extension educator.

The Psychology Today article's author, Nancy Segal, found that identical twins tend to choose similar career paths, have similar job satisfaction and change jobs at a similar rate. The Kopsell twins figure prominently in the article; she first interviewed them 20 years ago for a study on cooperation and competition between twins.

Segal also found that identical twins are more likely to collaborate and less likely to compete with one another than fraternal twins. The Kopsells' take on that finding? "I've always believed we've gotten more done than two other people, because we work so well together," Dave Kopsell says. "It wouldn't matter where we were, we'd be working with each other. UNH is a tremendous opportunity for us. It takes time to establish trust with other scientists. Dean will work on the development of plants, and I'll take that research to the growers." He pauses and smiles at his brother, "He'd better help me!"

There's one other obvious advantage to living near your identical twin: you don't have to buy so many clothes. In fact, when they came for their UNH interviews, Dean Kopsell says, "We had only one suit jacket between us. We wore the same outfit -- the blazer and our own khakis, shirts and ties. The committee members joked that there was really only one person posing as two."

How much alike are they? Well, Dean's wife has no trouble telling them apart, but their grandmother had to look at the backs of their heads. People in the plant biology department remember that Dean parts his hair in the middle, Dave on the side. Or is that the other way around?

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