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Open letter to Bill Murray

Dear Mr. Murray,

As a faculty member in the department of plant biology at the University of Minnesota and a patron of the arts, I have been of two minds with regard to your impact.  I have, of course, appreciated your many contributions to humanity over the past years, and believe that in many ways your work has fundamentally improved the lives of many. On the other hand, you have previously waged a  vicious but ultimately unsuccessful war on the very symbol of our university — the gopher.

While this is not easy to overcome, your recent public support for science may have tipped the scales in your favor. I am moved by your deep respect for plant genetics, exemplified by your desire to meet Gregor Mendel ( goo.gl/ZpjMUJ ). I am therefore willing to forgive you for your assaults on our dear mascot (contingent on your agreement to end your gopher hunt). I am also pasting your relevant ama comments below.


Dr. Yaniv Brandvain. University of Minnesota. Department of Plant Biology.

p.s. Although I am a no Gregor Mendel I will happily talk to you about the latest advances in plant genetics.


Bill Murrary’ s support for science

reddit ama transcript ( goo.gl/ZpjMUJ )

[–]anniedog03 1745 points 1 day ago

If you could go back in time and have a conversation with one person, who would it be and why?

[–]_BillMurray[S] 3179 points 23 hours ago

That’s a grand question, golly.

I kind of like scientists, in a funny way. Albert Einstein was a pretty cool guy. The thing about Einstein was that he was a theoretical physicist, so they were all theories. He was just a smart guy. I’m kind of interested in genetics though. I think I would have liked to have met Gregor Mendel.

Because he was a monk who just sort of figured this stuff out on his own. That’s a higher mind, that’s a mind that’s connected. They have a vision, and they just sort of see it because they are so connected intellectually and mechanically and spiritually, they can access a higher mind. Mendel was a guy so long ago that I don’t necessarily know very much about him, but I know that Einstein did his work in the mountains in Switzerland. I think the altitude had an effect on the way they spoke and thought.

But I would like to know about Mendel, because i remember going to the Philippines and thinking “this is like Mendel’s garden” because it had been invaded by so many different countries over the years, and you could see the children shared the genetic traits of all their invaders over the years, and it made for this beautiful varietal garden.


historical documentation of Mr. Murray’s assault on gophers


About Yaniv Brandvain

I'm a population geneticist in the department of plant biology at the university of minnesota


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(2/6/17) --Yaniv is Honored to be named a McKnight Land Grant Professor. Read the college announcement here.

(5/15/16) -- New postdoc, Alison Wardlaw, arrives from Toronto and heads directly to the State Fair [pic] Not shown - alison's trip to the mall of america.

(5/15/16) -- In his new paper, postdoc Adam Herman digs in to the historical action of selection on losing incompatibility in Leavenworthia [read the paper in Evolution].

(5/15/16) -- New paper with Alisa Sedghifar and Peter Ralph shows that hybrid incompatibilities should be flanked by large ancestry blocks in hybridizing populations [read the paper in Molecular Ecology].

(4/12/16) -- So proud of and happy for former postdoc, current collaborator, and friend forever, Dena Grossenbacher, who will be starting an assistant professor gig at Cal Poly San. Luis Obispo. CONGRATS DENA!

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