Skip to Content

UGA Masters Student Honored as 2017 ISHS Outstanding Graduate Student!

Congratulations are in order for  Miss Jun Liu, Masters of Science student who just won two graduate student awards at ISHS:  The first was for the best oral presentation for the Workgroup Peach Culture and the second was for Outstanding Graduate Student Award.  Both awards were given at the International Society for Horticultural Science, (ISHS)  IX International Peach Symposium in București, Romania in July. Her research presentation title was “Low temperature damage of peach floral buds as assessed by vital staining.  Jun Liu recently defended and graduated from UGA under the direction of Dario Chavez, Assistant Professor, Peach Research and Extension.

Four Department Students Recieve Prestigeous Sidney B. Meadows Scholarships

The Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship Fund has announced the names of twelve students from several southeastern universities chosen to receive academic scholarships this year.   In the Undergraduate category, the UGA Hort Department had two out of the six awardees.  Ruqayah Bhuiyan and Michael Delvalle each received one of the $1500.00 scholarships.  In the Graduate Student category, two of the six  scholarships were awarded to Susan Hawkins, and Bethany Harris, both graduate students on the Griffin campus.

Scholarship recipients are determined through a competitive application process, administered by a selection committee, based on academics, determination, demonstrated interest in the horticulture industry, and financial need. This year’s recipients were chosen from the largest number of applications ever received. Created in 1989 by the Southern Nursery Association (SNA), The Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship Endowment Fund is a 501 (c) 3 corporation providing scholarships to students who are residents of the sixteen southeastern states – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia – pursuing a career in horticulture. The scholarship is dedicated to one of the most honored horticultural leaders, the late Sidney B. Meadows, who was an avid supporter of student scholarships and believed that providing aid for students was an important way to ensure the growth and development of all facets of the industry.

UGA Research Leader’s Work on Tomato Genome Featured in PLOSbgenetics!

Dr. Esther van der Knapp, Professor in the Department of Horticulture and the Center for Applied Genetic Technologies, Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics & Genomics and her team of scientists from UGA and The Ohio State University have recent had their work on Cell size regulation published in PLOS genetics, a very prestigious genomic science journal.  According to the research summary:  “Starting about 10,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period, human societies began the transformation from a hunting and gathering-dependent lifestyle to an agrarian lifestyle. This transformation was accompanied by plant and animal domestication. Tomato shows a huge increase in fruit weight that has arisen as a consequence of its domestication. We identified a gene that encodes a poorly characterized protein that controls fruit weight in tomato. The mutation that led to the increase in fruit weight arose early during the cultivation of tomato and is now incorporated in all large tomato varieties. The gene regulates cell size in the fruit and is called Cell Size Regulator. The increases in cell size are proposed to relate to cellular maturation that accompanies fruit growth.”

To see the actual publication, follow the link provided below:

Fruit weight is controlled by Cell Size Regulator encoding a novel protein that is expressed in maturing tomato fruits.  Qi Mu , Zejun Huang, Manohar Chakrabarti, Eudald Illa-Berenguer, Xiaoxi Liu, Yanping Wang, Alexis Ramos, and  Esther van der Knaap. 2017  PLOS Gen 13(8) e1006930.

UGA Horticulture Major Michael DelValle Receives the 2017 Hammer Scholarship

Dr. P. Allen Hammer Scholarship is awarded to Michael Del Valle of University of Georgia

Dümmen Orange announces inaugural scholarship recipient at Cultivate’17


Columbus, OH, July 25, 2017 – The first-ever recipient of the Dr. P. Allen Hammer Scholarship was announced as Michael Del Valle, Jr., an undergraduate student studying horticulture at the University of Georgia. The $5,000 award is presented in recognition of exemplary academic achievement in the field of horticulture, and is intended to support the next generation of floriculture students towards the completion of their horticulture-related academic pursuits.

The scholarship, founded in 2016 by Dümmen Orange in acknowledgement of the contributions Dr. P. Allen Hammer has made to the floriculture industry, was awarded based on a variety of indicators. “We selected Michael for his academic performance, floriculture experience, UGA Horticulture Club participation, Pi Alpha Xi National Honor Society membership and career goals, all of which aligned with the intent of the scholarship to support an outstanding university student in the field of floriculture,” says Dr. Hammer, who adds that it was an honor to congratulate Michael on this achievement. “I sincerely hope this award makes his senior year at UGA just a little easier, allowing him to focus on his education and preparing him to join the industry as a respected and successful professional.”

Michael, who is working at the UGA Horticulture Research Farm for the summer, plans to find a job in either a local production facility or garden center after graduation. “Ultimately, I would like to purchase land and begin a fresh cut-flower growing operation,” he shares. “I am so honored to have been chosen as the first recipient of the Dr. P. Allen Hammer Scholarship. The news of this great achievement could not have come at a more opportune time in my life as I’m finishing up my final year in college and preparing for the financial responsibilities that will come post-graduation. I cannot thank the committee at Dümmen Orange enough for their generosity.”

For more information:

For more information, contact Dümmen Orange at or (614) 850-9551.


Dr. Paul Thomas – Winner of 2017 Alex Laurie Award for Research and Education

A renowned researcher, prolific speaker and mentor to college students is the recipient of the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) 2017 Alex Laurie Award. The association will present the honor to Paul A. Thomas, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Georgia’s horticulture department, on Sept. 9 during SAF Palm Beach 2017, SAF’s 133rd Annual Convention at The Breakers in Florida.

Established in 1948, SAF’s Alex Laurie Award is named for the eminent professor at The Ohio State University. Over the course of his 60-year career, Laurie laid the groundwork for research that revolutionized the floriculture industry and left a lineage of students, teachers and researchers continuing to provide the information necessary to ensure the industry’s future.


Thomas earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in botany from Southern Illinois University and his doctorate in plant physiology, with a specialization in plant carbohydrate transport in maize, from the Pennsylvania State University. His current research involves water conservation, production input reduction, sustainable greenhouse practices and implementation of wireless, sensor-controlled irrigation systems in nurseries and greenhouses.

At UGA, Thomas teaches greenhouse management, horticultural business practices and interiorscaping classes. A key component of his program is facilitating experiential learning through industry internships. Thomas serves as the State Extension Specialist in floriculture. In this position, he plans and implements regional and state programs involving greenhouses and the florist industry.

Thomas has published more than 350 peer-reviewed scientific and outreach articles and has received 41 academic awards. He has given more than 600 presentations to industry groups and has extensive diagnostic experience.

He serves as a grant reviewer on the American Floral Endowment’s education committee and chairs the American Society for Horticultural Science’s endowment committee. Thomas has also been very active in the Vic and Margaret Ball Internship program managed by the American Floral Endowment.

Notably, he served a six year term as a committee member of the D.C. Kiplinger Chair in Floriculture’s oversight committee, and served as a grant panel manager for the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Thomas is dedicated to nurturing aspiring horticulturists. He has over 20 years of service to the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, as well as the college’s Young Scholars Program (a STEM High school co-mentoring program) and serves as faculty advisor to the Tau Chapter of the Pi Alpha Xi national horticulture honor society.

He has also served as a judge for the Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, a coalition of Georgia colleges created to recruit underrepresented demographics to studies in science, technology, engineering and math; the Georgia Junior Science and Humanities Symposium; and the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair.

For information about the Alex Laurie Award, visit

Gray Simpson Named 2017 ASHS Horticulture Scholar

Congratulations are in order for recently graduated Horticulture major Gray Simpson, one of two students selected nationally as a 2017 American Society for Horticultural Science “Scholar.”  The ASHS Scholars Award was established by the ASHS Board of Directors for the purpose of recognizing and supporting scholastic achievement and to encourage career development in horticultural science at the undergraduate level. The award comes with a scholarship. Gray is currently in Costa Rica working as a sustainable agriculture program leader at the UGA Eco Lodge, San Luis, CR.    Outstanding representation Gray!

Dr. Suzanne Stone Appointed Director of R&D, Production at Urban Seeds, Inc.

More excellent employment news: Congratulations to UGA Horticulture PhD graduate student Suzanne Stone, whom graduated this May and has accepted a great position with Urban Seeds, Inc., as Director of R&D and Production. Urban Seeds is an Aeroponic greenhouse based growing operation located in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to Suzanne “My job is to develop company grow plans, which includes evaluating variety performance, nutrient management, integrated pest management, and greenhouse management. I also supervise the grow team and am developing employee protocols. The company is very much technology-driven, so daily I collaborate with engineers to develop solutions for more sustainable greenhouse food production, packing, distribution. I will work with chefs to find the best tasting and highest quality produce to elevate their menus. This is truly a dream job and the company is fantastic!” Suzanne did her doctoral work under Drs Cecelia McGregor and George Boyhan and by all accounts did a fantastic job on her dissertation. Congratulations Dr. Stone! To learn more about Urban Seeds:


Jesse Lafian receives scholarship from the landscape Architecture Foundation

Jesse Lafian

Jesse Lafian

Jesse Lafian received the ‘2017 Rain Bird Intelligent Use of Water Scholarship’ from the  Landscape Architecture Foundation. Jesse Lafian is a senior Horticulture student at the University of Georgia (UGA) and the founder of Reservoir, a startup company that is developing a patent-pending tensiometer that can measure how much water in the soil is available to plants. This technology will help landscapers and farmers conserve water, reduce agro-chemical pollution, and increase profits by improving irrigation management. Jesse has raised $13,500 from grants and built a small-scale laboratory prototype with his mentor Dr. Marc van Iersel, a UGA Horticulture Professor and irrigation-sensor expert. In addition to this scholarship, Jesse has recently won the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences ‘Fabricate’ entrepreneur competition as well as the ‘Next Top Entrepreneur’ competition organized by the Terry College of Business.  Jesse plans to secure more funding to complete R&D on the tensiometer after his upcoming graduation. Aside from school and work, he enjoys drumming, hiking, and riding his 1980 Kawasaki motorcycle.



van Iersel Horticultural Physiology Lab Receives GRA Grant

LEDs of different colors are used to study spectral effects on plant growth and physiology.

Dr. Marc van Iersel’s Horticultural Physiology Lab has received a $60,000 grant from the Georgia Research Alliance to continue their collaboration with Dr. Mark Haidekker’s photonics lab in UGA’s College of Engineering, and PhytoSynthetix. This long-standing collaboration is focused on the development of energy-efficient, cost-effective methods for supplemental lighting in controlled environment agriculture. We focus on integrating plant physiology and engineering to develop lighting approaches to specifically apply supplemental light when it can be used most efficiently. Given that the energy costs to provide supplemental lighting can be as much as 30% of the total production costs, reduced energy use can have a big impact on the greenhouse industry.