Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate and molecular biologist Dr. John J. Kopchick has a new, but very old, namesake thanks to IUP biology professor Dr. Shundong Bi.
In 2017, Dr. Bi was part of a team that discovered a new species of dinosaur. Now, in 2022 the team needed a name for the dinosaur and decided to name it after Dr. John Kopchick, to recognize him for his contributions to biology and IUP.
The official name of the dinosaur is Yuxisaurus Kopchicki. The name comes from Yuxi, the region in China where the remains were found, and Kopchicki, in recognition of Dr. Kopchick. Scientists believe the animal lived around 174–192 million years ago during the Early Jurassic period.
“This one belongs to a group called Thyreophoran. It also includes the Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus. We know what a Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus look like, but we don’t know their ancestors and this one is an ancestor,” said Dr. Shundong Bi, Biology Professor at IUP.
Since the announcement, the discovery and the origin of its name has been published in several international journals. Also, the findings show how diverse the group of dinosaurs was and how rapidly they spread across the northern hemisphere.
Dr. Bi and Dr. Kopchick met about 7 years ago at a scientific meeting put on by IUP. Dr. Bi always admired Dr. Kopchick not only because he is a successful scientist, but also because he always wants to give back to the community, and IUP. This all led to the naming of the new dinosaur species.
“Usually, when we discover a fossil, we usually name it after someone who has made a big impact to the field or after someone who discovered it,” said Dr. Bi.
Dr. Kopchick has always given back to IUP and has the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics named after him, as well as a new science building, and now a new dinosaur species. He says that this is an absolute honor.
“I think it’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me and I’m deeply humbled and impressed and honored to have Dr. Bi name this after me.,” said Dr. John J. Kopchick, Professor at Ohio University, IUP Alumni.
He also says that his colleagues think it is amazing, even though they make a few jokes about it.
“Yeah, they make jokes about me and dinosaurs, being an old guy and so forth, but everyone says that it is really cool,”
Both professors say they hope that this discovery will be an attraction for students who want to study paleontology at IUP and open new opportunities for them.
“I’m really glad that I can do something to, you know, help IUP to recruit a new student and to promote science,” said Dr. Bi.
Dr. Kopchick currently studies DNA, specifically growth hormones, and wants to collaborate with Dr. Bi to find out more about this new species.
“I’ve never taken DNA from a fossilized material. but that’s possible. So, you’re hearing it right here for the first time. We’re going to do a collaboration. If you can get me the bone, we’ll isolate the DNA, and sequence it,” explained Dr. Kopchick.
“I’m just proud and it’s an honor and thank you Dr. Bi, thank you very much,” said Dr. Kopchick.
The interim Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics also said that IUP is very grateful to have both professors so involved with the university.