Published on 07/17/19

UGA CAES trains young scientists through 2019 Young Scholars summer research program

By Merritt Melancon

This year, 60 students from across the state and two from outside of Georgia joined the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) Young Scholars research program and broke new ground in the agricultural sciences.

For more than two decades, the CAES Young Scholars Program has paired the college’s researchers with high school students to foster students’ love of science and introduce them to the breadth of study that forms the foundation of agriculture, Georgia’s largest industry.

During the Young Scholars Program, students are paid to work as research assistants in laboratories across the college to complete real research projects alongside faculty mentors.

“Each year, we are pleased with the level of research students are able to accomplish in six weeks,” said Victoria David, director of the CAES Office of Diversity Affairs. “Many Young Scholars alumni who got their initial exposure to science in this program currently work in labs across this campus and in industry.”

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 in research projects led by UGA faculty and, at the end of the program, 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.

Ten graduating Young Scholars will have the opportunity to continue their research work when they enroll at CAES in fall 2019.

Former Young Scholar Kristen Dunning, now a sophomore studying agricultural communications and horticulture at CAES, told this year’s Young Scholars that her time doing research at UGA helped change her college goals and refine her career plans.

“This college encompasses everything I want to do and more, and my heart is truly rooted in it,” said Dunning, who wants to work with a company that makes natural beauty products after graduation. “If nothing else, I hope this year’s students walk away with knowledge about agriculture, and I hope they decide to attend the University of Georgia and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”

Sam Pardue, dean and director of CAES, urged the Young Scholars gathered for the program’s closing ceremony on July 12 to find career paths that spark passion in their lives.

“I hope that whatever dream you have, you will strive to reach it,” Pardue told the students and their parents. “And even if you fall a little short, it is in that effort that I think you will find a great sense of accomplishment and achievement. Life is too short to do things that you are not passionate about, that you’re not enthusiastic about. And I hope this experience here has given you a glimpse of what that may be.”

The precursor to 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 has expanded to include scientists at UGA-Athens and UGA-Tifton.

Students selected for the program are truly ready to engage in real-world research. Because of this experience, many Young Scholars continue their research careers while studying at UGA 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 begin this fall.

This year’s Young Scholars:


  • Ron Adams, Shiloh High School
  • Emma Grace Brewer, Camden County High School
  • Kyle Brown, Marietta High School
  • Catrina Chamberlain, Woodland High School
  • Khyathi Chava, Eagles Landing High School
  • Aynslee Conner, Morgan County High School
  • Mikaela Dallas, Oconee County High School
  • Danielle Davis, Academy of Holy Angels
  • Joan Deitsch, homeschool
  • Ashlyn Donaldson, Eagles Landing Christian Academy
  • Coles Ehlers, Clarke Central High School
  • Mikayla Frierson, Buford High School
  • Ania Funny, Union Grove High School
  • Steviana Griffin, Dutchtown High School
  • Henry Huang, Tift County High School
  • Abhinav Iyer, Denmark High School
  • Morgan Lee, Druid Hills High School
  • Olivia Lee, Open Bible Christian High School
  • Matthew Li, Stephenson High School
  • Marin Lonnee, Oconee County High School
  • Elizabeth McDonald, Athens Christian School
  • Haley McMillan, Archer High School
  • Adonis Merritt, Newton College and Career Academy
  • Christian Ona, Oconee County High School
  • Collin Pannell, North Oconee High School
  • Paul Patterson, North Oconee High School
  • Shaan Prasad, North Oconee High School
  • Alexis Rooks, Oconee County High School
  • Carson Smith, Eastside High School
  • J. Mason Taylor, Northview High School


  • Jada Brunson, Luella High School
  • Austin Clark, Strong Rock Christian School
  • Andrew Collins, St. George’s Episcopal School
  • Samuel Cross, St. George’s Episcopal School
  • Julianna Dalrymple, Eagles Landing High School
  • Tamara English, Dutchtown High School
  • Edward Huang, Whitewater High School
  • Rachel Ibbetson, Haralson County High School
  • Stella Johnson, Flint River Academy
  • Matthew Kim, Mill Creek High School
  • Toni Miller, Griffin High School
  • Nyla Neal, Dutchtown High School
  • Madison Riggins, Pike County High School
  • Reid Robertson, McIntosh County High School
  • Parker Scott, Rock Springs Christian Academy
  • Emily Shi, McIntosh High School
  • Mackenzie Thames, CrossPointe Christian Academy
  • Jolie Turner, Pike County High School


  • Sam Aultman, Tift County High School
  • Cody Beasley, Citizens Christian Academy
  • Audrey Conner, Tift County High School
  • Jordan Daniels, Tift County High School
  • Jacob Davis, Westover Comprehensive High School
  • Clifton Edwards, Pelham High School
  • Ashleigh Hurst, Cairo High School
  • Abbigail Toews, Tift County High School
  • Audrey Young, Tiftarea Academy
  • Lydia Connell, Tiftarea Academy
  • Kirsten Flinn, Tift County High School
  • Porter Hill, Deerfield-Windsor School
  • Walt Sanders, Tift County High School
  • Luis Torres, Tift County High School

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

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