GRIFFIN — For high school students interested in agriculture, food and environmental sciences, the University of Georgia offers the opportunity to have hands-on learning with world-renowned research scientists through the Young Scholars Program.
YSP is a six-week paid summer internship organized by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences which aims to broaden students interests in various fields of study. Students can apply to be part of the program at three UGA campuses: Athens, Griffin and Tifton.
This summer, from June 4 - July 13, four Henry County students were selected to participate: Joshua Duffey, Locust Grove High School; Tamara English, Dutchtown High School; Lauren Moyer, Dutchtown High School; and Dean Watson, Locust Grove High School. They were chosen from a pool of more than 80 students.
While in the program, students are assigned to work with a researcher and their staff on campus. They learned about the research that is ongoing in that department, how to use lab equipment and work in the field, as well as completing their own research project under the guidance of their mentor. On the UGA Griffin Campus, students spent Fridays with fellow young scholars where they attend site visits of many departments, participated in college and career related workshops and played interactive games to give them a chance to know each other.
Duffey spent his summer working with Dr. Monique Leclerc in Crop and Soil Sciences where he conducted research on the effect planting patterns have on water use efficiency in peanuts. As part of the internship, Duffey worked with Dr. Leclerc and her team in both the lab and field, spending many days in Plains studying the peanut crop, which he noted was very hot work. He added that he enjoyed getting to work with world-renowned scientists on a project that had real world applications and meeting other young scholars through the program.
English worked under Dr. Patrick McCullough in Crop and Soil Sciences where she studied the turfgrass and the herbicide resistance of Annual Ryegrass along Georgia roadsides. This was English’s second year in the program and she enjoyed working in a field of research that had such complexity and depth, adding that it definitely kept her on her toes throughout the summer.
However, her favorite part of YSP were the many college and career workshops that were offered each Friday.
“My favorite part of YSP has been the workshops,” said English. “They are extremely helpful to my future especially since I am a senior this school year and am soaking in as much college and admissions advice as possible.”
Moyer was assigned to work in the FoodPIC (Food Product Innovation and Commercialization) Center where she worked with Dr. Kirk Kealey and his team. She spent her time working on a project to reverse engineer a seasoning mix for an Indian restaurant and stated she really enjoyed being able to work in the lab independently from her mentors.
“What I enjoyed about working in FoodPIC was being able to learn by trial and error,” said Moyer. “It was OK if I made a mistake because it gave me the chance to learn what to do next time.”
She also noted that YSP opened her eyes to what really goes on at the UGA Griffin campus, as prior to her internship, she did not realize so much research was being conducted on campus.
Watson spent his time in YSP working with Dr. Paul Raymer in Crop and Soil Sciences conducting research on herbicide resistance in Seashore Paspalum turfgrass. He stated while it was hard, precise work, his favorite part of his project was learning to extract DNA from grass samples and he was pleasantly surprised at how interesting he found his field of research.
YSP concluded the year with a three-day collegiate conference at the University of Georgia campus in Athens. This year, students had the chance to interact with other YSP students from the Athens and Tifton campuses, as well as learn about the UGA admissions process and take part in a behind the scenes tour of Entomology and Sanford Stadium.
Students interested in participating in YSP next year must be 16 years old and have completed their sophomore year of high school by the program start date. Graduating seniors must be accepted as an incoming freshman to the University of Georgia to participate. Applications are open for submission beginning on Oct. 15, 2018 and must be completed by Jan. 31, 2019 and can be found online by visiting ysp.caes.uga.edu.