The Athens Science Café Team is dedicated to sharing its collective passion for science with the Athens, GA community. Team members are primarily Athens, GA  residents with backgrounds in a variety of scientific fields and the desire to communicate scientific knowledge to scientists and non-scientists alike. The Team is comprised of a Core Group, responsible for event planning, marketing, finances, fundraising, and membership, and a Programming Board, responsible for discussing, suggesting, and deciding on Café topics and speakers.

The Athens Science Café Core Group:

Rick Rick Field, Program Director

Rick Field is PhD student in the department of genetics at UGA, where he studies the genetic regulation of a specialized mode of photosynthesis in the dessert plant genus Yucca L. Before returning to academia, Rick spent about ten years playing drums in various bands in Jacksonville, FL and Chicago, IL. In his off-time, Rick still loves jamming with new musicians, as well as cooking vegetarian versions of Southern soul food classics. Get in touch with Rick at or @fakespoons on Instagram and Twitter

alexandria Alexandria Purcell, Vice President of Social Media and Marketing

Alexandria Purcell is a graduate student in the Infectious Diseases program at UGA. She’s traveled to Europe and had the opportunity to visit the Vatican, and is also a huge fan of crime stuff! Get in touch with Alex at

Max Max Colonna, Vice President of Events

Max is a PhD student in the department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UGA, studying the the altered metabolism of breast cancers. He is very passionate about public outreach to improve dietary options and choices in underserved communities. His hobbies include bass guitar, Liverpool FC, and IPAs. Feel free to email Max at

Gabbie Gabbie Sandstedt, Vice President of Membership

Gabbie Sandstedt is a PhD candidate in the Genetics Department at UGA studying the evolution of hybrid seed lethality and how it contributes to speciation of yellow monkeyflowers. When not in lab, she enjoys hiking and eating her way around Athens. Gabbie currently serves as the Vice President of Membership for the Athens Science Café and can be reached at

Ellen Ellen Skelton, Vice President of Finance

Ellen Skelton is a graduate student at UGA studying crop genetics, specifically working on cotton. She was born and raised in Maryland and went to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for her undergraduate studies. In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving and watching movies. Follow her on Twitter @ellenr272.

Elizabeth Elizabeth Watts, Fundraising Coordinator

Elizabeth is a PhD student at UGA in the Biochemistry Department. She is currently studying the biological pathway of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) in the hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus. Specifically, she is trying to understand the mechanism behind the first step in the pathway, adaptation, in which DNA is acquired from foreign invaders of the cell and integrated into the host genome to serve as an immunological memory. Elizabeth has two darling fur babies (Dylan and Harley) and loves to go hiking in nature in her spare time. She currently helps with the fundraising events for Athens Science Café at Ben and Jerry’s. You can email her at

Rachel Rachel Perez-Udell, Art Director

Rachel Perez-Udell is a Ph.D. student in Plant Biology at UGA in Dr. Shu-Mei Chang’s lab studying Geranium maculatum. She is a Programming Board member of Athens Science Café, and V.P for the Plant Biology Graduate Student Association. She has lived in Georgia her entire life, completing her undergraduate biology degree from the Univerisity of North Georiga in Dahlonega. Currently, she lives in Winder with her husband Andrew and two cats, Fiyero and Luna. She is enthusiastic about teaching and hopes to become a professor to inspire students to find their passions in life but to also start chipping away at the phenomenon of Plant Blindness. Some of her favorite things are cats and more cats. You can contact Rachel at

IMG_0505 Morgan Ashcraft, Website Manager

Morgan Ashcraft is currently a PhD student in UGA’s Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Science department. She previously got her Bachelor’s in Chemistry at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, OH. When she’s not studying or causing mayhem in the lab, she likes to spend time with friends or with her two cats. She enjoys reading novels, traveling, and talking about science. She can be reached at

Evans Greg Evans, Athens Science Alliance Liaison

Greg Evanis working on his Master’s in Ag Business after finishing up his Master’s in Plant Biology here at UGA. He enjoys boxing, board games, and gardening. Greg currently serves as the Athens Science Alliance Liaison. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @WeedyInvasive


The Athens Science
 Café Programming Board:

Halmo Stephanie Halmo, Programming Board Member

Stephanie is a PhD candidate in the biochemistry department at UGA studying the molecular mechanisms responsible for the development of congenital muscular dystrophy and problem solving among biochemistry undergraduate students. In her spare time she likes to dance, volunteer at local schools, and eat ice cream. Stephanie served as the 2017-2018 Program Director for Athens Science Café and currently writes with Athens Science Observer. You can email her at or connect with her on Twitter @shalmo.

Rishi Rishi Masalia, Programming Board Member 

Rishi R. Masalia is a PhD graduate from UGA. Rishi is a founding member of Athens Science Café, and Athens Science Observer. He has also worked with the local outreach endeavors such as StemZone, and GPSA as well as national organizations such as the American Society of Plant Biologists. For his commitment to science outreach Rishi was named the 2018 University of Georgia Pillar of the Community, and a 2018 National K. Patricia Cross Scholar. Finally, Rishi is a former University of Arizona Wildcat, Coca-Cola addict, smooth dance machine, science fiction savant, and all around nerd. He can be reached at, or followed on Twitter @RishiMasalia.

Hilde Hilde Oliver, Programming Board Member

Hilde is a PhD candidate in the Department of Marine Sciences at UGA, where she studies the impacts of melting glaciers on Arctic and Antarctic coastal marine environments. Her hobbies are reading, working out, and napping. Follow her on Twitter @polar_plankton!

Ashley Ashley Snouffer, Programming Board Member

Ashley is a Postdoc in Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics at the University of Georgia where she studies the genes that control tomato fruit shape. In her free time, she loves to tap dance, go caving, and porch garden with her two cats.

Image from iOS Corey Schultz, Programming Board Member

My name is Corey Schultz, I am a first year grad student working on crop genomics in the Wallace Lab. I moved here from Clemson, SC. I enjoy hiking, playing video games, college football, and reading Sci fi.

20181210_134633 (1) Makenzie Whitener, Programming Board Member

Makenzie Whitener is a Ph.D. student in UGA’s Genetics department. She is interested in the genome evolution of polyploidy in monkeyflowers and how it contributes to reproductive isolation and speciation. In her free time, Makenzie loves to hang out at the State Botanical Gardens and go stargazing. She can be reached at

taso Angela Tsao, Programming Board Member

Angela Tsao is an undergraduate Cognitive Science and Computer Science double major. She is interested in the implications of technology in agricultural development and conducts research in the department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. She is an intern at the Office of Sustainability. She loves any outdoors activity, but especially falconry and birdwatching.

mountains Rebecca Klee, Programming Board Member

Rebecca Klee is a PhD Student rotating in UGA’s Integrated Life Sciences program with interests in both plant biology and marine science. She grew up along the Jersey Shore and in her free time enjoys listening to podcasts, exploring Athens, and finding any excuse to be outside. Feel free to get in touch with her by emailing or following @rebeccaajuliaa on instagram and twitter.

IMG_7072 Dan R. Rissi, Programming Board Member

Dan R. Rissi is an Assistant Professor at the UGA Department of Pathology and Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. He works primarily with diagnostic pathology of domesticated animals, with a special interest in neuropathology, dermatopathology, and scientific skepticism and critical thinking; he also teaches a course in the veterinary curriculum and is involved in pathology residency training. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading, writing, cooking, watching TV, listening to music, painting, and playing guitar. He believes science is the best achievement of human civilization.

Jason_preferred_small Jason Wallace, Programming Board Member

Jason Wallace is an assistant professor in UGA’s Department of Crop & Soil Sciences. His lab focuses on using statistics and computer science to discover the genes that control important traits in plants, and he is especially interested in understanding how plants work with microbes in their environment. Outside the lab, Jason enjoys board games, making stained glass art, and raising his four daughters. Jason can be reached at

IMG_1428 Jennifer Jenkins, Programming Board Member

Jennifer Jenkins is a Cellular Biology PhD student with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences/Coastal Ecology concentration. Her lab seeks to understand the cellular and molecular requirements of whole-body regeneration in planarians. She is specifically studying the roles of neuropeptide signaling in regeneration of the central nervous system. A theater kid at heart, Jen likes to support the arts in her free time. However, since arriving at UGA, she has also started to (at first unwillingly) enjoy a good football game/tailgate.

hallieflowers Hallie Wright, Programming Board Member

Hallie Wright is a PhD student in Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics.  She is primarily interested in comparative genomics and discovering fungal blast resistance genes in finger millet.  Outside the lab, she volunteers at a local middle school, helping students design plant science experiments.  Her favorite band is Taking Back Sunday, and you can find her at punk shows on the weekends.  Feel free to contact her at

IMG_3589 Nidhi Patel, Programming Board Member

Nidhi Patel is a liscenced physical therapist at the University Health Center at UGA. She got her undergraduate degree in Biology at UGA, took a year off and lived in India before going to get her Doctorate in Physical Therapy at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. She is an Athens native and excited to be back! She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, cooking and drawing.

IMG_0682 Seung Woo (Sam) Kang, Programming Board Member

Sam is a first-year PhD student in Neuroscience program. His Alma mater is University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Alongside his interest in Neuroscience, he also loves theatre, cinema, literature, traveling and hiking.

  • Nicholas Batora
  • Jenn Cyr
  • Victoria Knight
  • Kerri Miazgowicz
  • Amanda Shaver
  • John Spiekerman
  • Carmen Kraus