Published on 07/27/17

Teenagers from across Georgia gain research experience through UGA Young Scholars Program

By Merritt Melancon

More than 50 Georgia teenagers spent the better part of their summers working in some of the University of Georgia’s most prestigious research laboratories.

For almost three decades, the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Young Scholars Program has paired CAES researchers with high school students to foster students’ love of science and introduce them to the breadth of science that is the foundation of agriculture, Georgia’s largest industry.

“We have students representing 40 high schools from all over the state,” said Victoria David, director of the CAES Office of Diversity Affairs. “These students really are the cream of the crop.”

The students worked in some of the most advanced laboratories on UGA’s Griffin, Tifton and Athens campuses during the six-week program. They assisted with actual research projects led by UGA faculty and, at the end of the program, they presented their findings in a research symposium. Some students may be listed as co-authors on these studies when they are published in academic journals, which is rare for students who have not completed high school.

Thirteen graduating Young Scholars will have the opportunity to continue their research work when they attend CAES in fall 2017.

CAES Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Josef Broder urged all of the Young Scholars gathered for the program’s closing ceremony on July 14 to consider careers in agriculture. The world will need the best and brightest minds working in agriculture in order to feed the growing population, he told them.

“It’s almost mind-boggling that we need to feed as many people as we will have to in a safe environment,” Broder said. “We will not be able to do it without you stepping up to the plate.

“Some of you may want to be doctors, and that’s a noble profession, but think about how many people you can save by inventing a new grain variety. Some of the grains developed during the Green Revolution have saved millions of lives. It’s not glamorous. You may not get to wear a doctor’s coat, but think of the impact.”

Promoting science for 28 years

The Young Scholars Program began at UGA-Griffin in 1989. The program was originally intended to provide a collegiate experience to students who were not planning to attend college.

Since then, the program expanded to include scientists at UGA-Athens and UGA-Tifton. Students selected for the program are truly ready to engage in real-world research. They are matched to projects of potential interest.

Because of this experience, many Young Scholars continue their research careers while attending UGA as students through the college's undergraduate research program.

For more information about the program, visit or email David at

The application period for next year’s program will run from October 2017 to January 2018.

This year’s Young Scholars include:


  • Amaja Andrews, Houston County High School
  • Mason Bivins, Clarke Central High School
  • Breana Bowen, Greene County High School
  • Christina Chatman, Arabia Mountain High School
  • Michael Gabriels, Cedar Shoals High School
  • Song Khaing, Cedar Shoals High School
  • Core Kim, University High School
  • Sierra King, Mill Creek High School
  • Lilian Magaña, Cedar Shoals High School
  • Jaylé Myers, Creekside High School
  • Joshua Patton, North Springs Charter High School
  • Sabar Prasad, North Oconee High School
  • Eduardo Ricome, Cedar Shoals High School
  • Cambrilyn Scofield, Newton High School
  • Adonis Scott, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy
  • Charity Stanton, Arabia Mountain High School
  • Taylor Sturgis, Union Grove High School
  • Mark Swain, Oconee County High School
  • Joshua Thedford, Woodland High School
  • Ciara Thomas, Eagle’s Landing High School
  • Henry Vencill, Cedar Shoals High School
  • Carlos Villanueva, Cedar Shoals High School
  • Paige Walcott, Prince Avenue Christian School
  • Annie Whatley, Oconee County High School
  • Leah Whitmoyer, Tucker High School


  • Asa Bradley, Heritage High School Academy for Performing and Visual Arts
  • William Brooks, CrossPointe Christian Academy
  • Thomas Daniel, Pike County High School
  • Makayla Daniels, Henry County High School
  • Riti Desai, Eagle’s Landing High School
  • Austin Duncan, Whitewater High School
  • Tamara English, Dutchtown High School
  • Karen Ezenne, Jonesboro High School
  • Chanlier Futch, Griffin High School
  • Dana Gould, Starr’s Mill High School
  • Antaures Jackson II, Eagle’s Landing High School
  • Mary Grace Johnson, Flint River Academy
  • Nia Jones, Luella High School
  • Maddox Jordan, Spalding High School
  • Sheilendria Rawls, Spalding High School
  • Jolie Ryff, Whitewater High School
  • Martha Sikora, Spalding High School
  • Iyanla Smith, Spalding High School
  • Sarah Smyly, Spalding High School
  • Jordan Stewart, Hampton High School


  • Lauren Asbell, John Milledge Academy
  • Bret Bernard, Tiftarea Academy
  • Mackenzie Brown, Crisp Academy
  • Coleman Byers, Tift County High School
  • Julie Jernigan, Belleview High School
  • Catherine Kemeness, Tift County High School
  • Laura Lane, Worth County High School
  • Michael Pannell, Lowndes High School
  • Mitchell Riley, Colquitt County High School
  • Carlee Snow, Tift County High School
  • Reaiah Tyson, Irwin County High School
  • Bailey Veeder, Clarke Central High School

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.