Connections abundant, Gophers host Northwestern at Baseline

Minn. freshman Ben Mirkin’s father is a chemist at Northwestern.

Samuel Gordon

The Minnesota menâÄôs tennis team will play its first home match in a month on Friday against Northwestern, a school that has some unusual ties with the Gophers.

For starters, freshman Ben Mirkin hails from Wilmette, Ill., which is just north of NorthwesternâÄôs Evanston campus. But thatâÄôs not even the half of it.

MirkinâÄôs father, Chad, is a world-class chemist and is currently a professor of chemistry, medicine and materials science, and the director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and Center for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly at Northwestern.

The elder Mirkin has been on the receiving end of more than 60 national and international awards, and is currently a member of President Barack ObamaâÄôs PresidentâÄôs Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. As of 2009, he was the most cited chemist in the world, based on total citations, according to Thomson Reuters.

Despite all this, Ben, who is redshirting this year, isnâÄôt burdened by his fatherâÄôs achievements.

âÄúI think itâÄôs pretty cool and people talk about it all the time,âÄù he said. âÄúIt really doesnâÄôt affect my life that much but I recognize that heâÄôs very successful.âÄù

ThatâÄôs just one of BenâÄôs connections to Northwestern. MirkinâÄôs first tennis coach also happened to be Arvid Swan, who is currently the WildcatsâÄô head coach.

Speaking of coaching, Minnesota head coach Geoff Young has Northwestern roots of his own. Young was a two-time All-Big Ten selection as a player at Northwestern, co-captained the team during his senior year and won a total of 83 matches during his career.

However, Young said itâÄôs no different coaching against his alma mater than it would be against any other team.

âÄúWeâÄôve played against them a number of years now since IâÄôve been here, but the first time or two I played them, it was a little weird. But now itâÄôs no different.âÄù

Prior to his current tenure with the Gophers, Young was the head coach at the University of Denver, which Minnesota will be facing on Saturday.

The No. 22 Gophers boast a 9-2 record, and are coming off a 4-3 win against the then No. 25 Miami Hurricanes. While the Minnesota weather is a far cry from that in Miami, Young said itâÄôs nice to be home.

âÄúWe havenâÄôt played inside in our building for a bit, at least in a match, so that part will be fun.âÄù