UGA Horticulture Department

An Overview of Horticulture Undergraduates at UGA: 2000-2016

One of the most enjoyable tasks I undertake every semester since 2000 is to interview our exiting undergraduate students.  We should all take pride in the quality of our graduates; they are quite impressive. Part of the interview is spent collecting information on our students—where they come from, why they came—and part is spent gaining student insight into our departmental strengths and weaknesses. Below is a PDF document summary of the data collected from the interviews and the second link is a graphic of the statewide distribution.  Data Summary 2016 (002),   Graduate_origin_2016.



Students participate in Georgia Organics Conference

More than 20 UGA students, including 9 from the Horticulture Dept., attended the 20th annual Georgia Organics Conference held in Atlanta from Feb 17-18th. Undergraduate and graduate students presented research posters, attended educational sessions and participated in talks ranging from ‘Seed Varieties for Organic Growers’, ‘Management of Disease and Pests in Squash Production’ and ‘Cool Season Vegetables Under High Tunnels’. Scholarships were provided by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, The Hartel Family and Horticulture Professors Berle, Knauft and O’Connell.

Students in attendance included: Taylor Cotton*, Emma Courson, Lindsay Davies*, Noelle Joy Fuller, Theekshana Jayalath*, Teri Raskusin, Sara Schwartz, Suzanne Stone and Jean O’Hara Yost *recently graduated

Horticulture senior Jesse Lafian wins CAES entrepreneurship competition


UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Joe Broder congratulates fourth-year horticulture student Jesse Lafian, whose smart irrigation business, Reservoir, won the grand prize in CAES’s inaugural FABricate entrepreneurship competition.

Jesse Lafian, a senior undergraduate in the horticulture department, won the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ Fabricate entrepreneurship competition. Jesse has been working a novel type of soil moisture sensor that can help farmers and landscapers track the irrigation needs of their plants. The ultimate goal is to integrate the soil moisture sensor with an irrigation controller, so that plants can be irrigated automatically when needed. He plans to bring this product to market through his company Reservoir, LLC.

Dr. Marc van Iersel has served as one of Jesse’s mentor and the horticultural physiology lab has helped him with testing prototypes of the irrigation controller.

Great job, Jesse!


For the full story, see this link.

Gray Simpson Named Horticulture Department Outstanding Senior

Gray Simpson has been chosen by the faculty to be the departmental Outstanding Senior. Gray has distinguished himself by receiving several noteworthy awards: Greenhouse Product News Intern of the Year,  American Floral Endowment Vic and Margaret Ball Internship at Metrolina Greenhouses, Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship, and the most prestigious scholarship offered by the Garden Club of Georgia. He is the Horticulture Vice President and has efficiently grown plants for sale and coordinated the efforts of numerous student to hold a very successful Plant Sale.  He also was the Production Coordinator for the Pi Alpha Xi Poinsettia sale.  Congratulations Gray, and Well done!


Dr. John Ruter elected “Fellow” for IPPS

John M. Ruter,  Allan Armitage Endowed Professor of Horticulture and Director of the Trial Gardens at UGA was recognized as a Fellow by the International Plant Propagators’ Society, Southern Region of North America, during the society’s recent meeting in Virginia Beach. VA.

This annual recognition is given to an individual each year that has made outstanding contributions to plant propagation and the nursery industry in the southeastern region.

IPPS is a global network of professionals with an interest in plant production, including horticultural research and education, with the aim to improve the knowledge, skills, productivity and professionalism of its members. IPPS has 1600 members over eight geographical regions around the world, spread over four continents.

Hort Faculty Recognized For Teaching Efforts




Several Horticulture Department faculty were recently recognized for their teaching efforts at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences here at UGA.  Dr. Doug Bailey, our Department Head, along with Dr. Marc van Iersel, were recognized by students and received the CTL “Thank a Teacher Award.” Professor Marc van Iersel was recognized for receiving the prestigious 2016 American Society for Horticultural Science Outstanding Graduate Educator Award, and Tim Smalley was recognized for receiving the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship, our highest University level teaching award. Rounding out the evening. Dr. David Berle, Dr. Matthew Chappell, Dr. Tim Smalley, Dr. Bodie Pennisi, and Dr. Paul Thomas received recognition for their classes being cited by students as “My Favorite Class” in the 2015 “Thank a Professor Week” activities. Given how small our department is compared to many in the college, we represented well. Special thanks to the anonymous Horticulture students who said so many nice things about our faculty! (Pictures are faculty able to attend the banquet: From the left Dr. Marc van Iersel, Dr. Bodie Pennisi, Dr. Tim Smalley and Dr. Paul Thomas. Not present but appreciated are Dr. Doug Bailey, Dr. David Berle and Dr. Matt Chappell.

Horticulture graduate students win awards at the 61st SNA Research Conference

SNA winners, 2016

The happy winners from the 2016 SNA research Conference included Zhitong Li (2nd from left, 3rd place, MS competition), David Gianino (middle, 1st place MS competition) Geoffrey Weaver, third from right, 2nd place PhD competition) and Shuyang Zhen (right, 1st place PhD competition). Great students doing good work!

The 61st Annual Southern Nursery Association Research Conference was held in Athens, GA on August 30 and 31, 2016. The highlight of the first day was the annual student competition, with separate competitions for BS, MS, and PhD students. The horticulture department was well represented in the competition, with David Gianino and Zhitong Li in the MS division, while Shuyang Zhen and Geoffrey Weaver were part of the PhD competition. Our students gave outstanding talks and clearly impressed the judges. David Gianino won the MS competition with his presentation titled ‘Adaptive LED Lighting Can Benefit Greenhouse Production’. He discussed the benefits of the adaptive LED lights developed by him and Dr. Marc van Iersel. Zhitong Li, who works in Dr. John Ruter’s lab placed third in the MS competition for her talk titled ‘Induction of Tetraploid Hibiscus moscheutos through Seedling Soaking’. She discussed her ongoing breeding work on Hibiscus. Shuyang Zhen won the PhD competition for her presentation on ‘Modeling Daily Water Use of Bedding Plants Based on Environmental Factors and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index’, discussing the use of remote sensing to estimate canopy size. that information can then be used for predicting crop water needs. Geoffrey Weaver placed second with his talk on ‘Screening Photosynthetic Performance of Bedding Plants Using Chlorophyll Fluorescence’. his worked is focused on determining how efficiently different crops can use light (and how that depends on light intensity). Both Shuyang Zhen and Geoffrey Weaver work with Dr. Marc van Iersel in the Horticultural Physiology Lab. We are very proud of the outstanding work that is being done by our graduate students!

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