Published on 04/20/21

CAES undergraduate student researchers showcase results at annual event

The 2021 College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium drew 48 participants in a virtual format that showcased students’ research findings and provided cash awards to eight first- and second-place winners.

With the help of faculty mentors, undergraduate students learned valuable lessons about the research process while gaining personal and professional benefits from conducting research. Presentations covered a range of topics from environmental science and crop science to plant pathology and neuroscience.

“This year we provided $38,750 to fund 46 research projects through the CAES Undergraduate Research Initiative,” said Doug Bailey, CAES assistant dean for academic affairs. "We had 48 participants in this year’s virtual program, and we are proud of the excellent work performed by our students. We are also grateful to the faculty mentors who contribute their time and resources to help our students perform meaningful research that contributes to knowledge and supports academic growth.”

The competition was divided into four sections, including Social Sciences, Plant Sciences and two sections on Animal Sciences. The first and second place winners of each section received $600 and $500, respectively.

Jenna Franke, a senior environmental economics and management major, earned a first-place award with her project, “A Comprehensive Review of Natural Infrastructure in Georgia.”

“Participating in undergraduate research and competing in the research symposium was unlike any other experience I have had during my time at UGA. Honestly, it was the perfect way to end my undergraduate career. Learning in the classroom is great, but participating in research has allowed me to apply everything I have learned to real life problems,” said Franke, who will graduate in May. “It opened my eyes to the different educational and career opportunities I hadn’t realized existed. I had already planned to attend graduate school at CAES, but it really reinforced my confidence in my decision to do so.”

This year’s winners are:

Section 1, Social Sciences

First place: Jenna Franke, “A Comprehensive Review of Natural Infrastructure in Georgia,” with faculty mentor Susana Ferreira.

Second place: Lane Goodroe, “Linked Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Cases Within Georgia 2003-2019,” with faculty mentor Will Secor.

Section 2, Plant Sciences

First place: Lydia Griffin, “Diagnosing Soil-Limiting Factors of Row Crop Performance to Optimize Management Practices,” with faculty mentor Henry Sintim.

Second place: Mark Whatley, “Investigating Interactions Between Fruit Growth and Calcium Distribution During Development of Blossom-End Rot in Tomatoes,” with faculty mentor Savithri Nambeesan.

Section 3, Animal Sciences

First place: Chris Littlejohn, “Evaluation of Growth Factors on Their Ability to Promote Proliferation and Reduce Apoptosis in Neural Stem Cells,” with faculty mentor Holly Kinder.

Second place: Brandon Hudson, “Effects of Tannic Acid on Mixed Ruminal Microorganism Fermentation In Vitro,” with faculty mentor Todd Callaway.

Section 4, Animal Sciences

First place: Abigail Sartin, “Pre-Slaughter Fasting Effects on Gastrointestinal Microbiome,” with faculty mentor Dean Pringle.

Second place: Kassandra Kocan, “Association of Pre-treatment Somatic Cell Counts with Bacteriological Cure,” with faculty mentor Valerie Ryman.

Abstracts from this year’s event and those from previous years are available here. To learn more about undergraduate research opportunities available to CAES students, visit

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