Carl Quiz: Stephan Zweifel

Zweifel42.jpgWhether he’s lecturing on genetics or critiquing a serve, Stephan Zweifel often uses humor to get his point across. “To understand humor, you have to invest a little bit of yourself,” says Zweifel, a professor of biology and head coach of Carleton’s men’s tennis team. “You don’t always have to invest a lot to understand facts.”

Players and fans enjoy reading Zweifel’s match recaps on the tennis team’s website, which feature such bons mots as: “[They] showed as much disdain for staying back on the baseline as Lady Gaga does for wearing off-the-rack clothing.” And “I was impressed with Dan and Andrew in their upset win. The last time I saw such aggressive risk taking was when they ate a hot dog from a gas station convenience store.”

Shortly after Zweifel arrived at Carleton in 1991, he was discussing his interest in tennis with colleagues in the buffet line at a faculty retreat. The tennis coach overheard the conversation and “by the time I poured the orange juice, I was hired as the assistant tennis coach,” he says. Zweifel, who became head coach in 1997, has led the team to two NCAA Championship appearances and has been named MIAC coach of the year four times.

Zweifel doesn’t limit his quips to the courts. His students also benefit from his sense of humor. For example, in a genetics lab he taught them to put their index fingers to their heads like horns to remember that “DNA, like the bull, runs to the red.” [See web extra.]

We recently served up a Carl Quiz to Zweifel.

On being a professor and a coach: It’s essential to balance intellectual and physical activities in order to make it through life. What better place to start than in college?

plane-outline.jpgBest thing about working at Carleton: Watching the next generation of leaders throw a Frisbee on a sunny afternoon.

Research topic: Mitochondrial DNA maintenance and its role in cellular aging
In layman’s terms: An organelle [a specialized subunit within a cell] produces energy, and when we stop producing energy we die. So I’m studying how we can keep this energy-producing organelle thriving indefinitely.

Hobby: Flying 
Why: I was a pilot and flight instructor before I came to Carleton. Whenever I need to clear my mind, I go fly.

iStock_000016302564Medium.jpgIf you could steal someone else’s life, it would be: Jon Stewart and/or Roger Federer

Song that best describes your career: “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell
Why: Graduation is tough when I have to say goodbye to my students and players. “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” 

Toughest part about coaching: Walking up the Bell Field hill after a grueling practice.

Favorite team moment: Swooping into Basil’s after a match and watching the staff stare in amazement as 10 players devour 12 extra-large pizzas in 15 minutes.


Web Extra: see a video excerpt of students at work in Zweifel’s genetics lab.

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