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:

Rachel Rachel Perez-Udell, Program Director


Rachel Perez-Udell is a 4th year Ph.D. student in Plant Biology at UGA in Dr. Shu-Mei Chang’s lab studying Geranium maculatum. She has lived in Georgia her entire life, having completed her undergraduate biology degree from the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. Currently, she lives in Winder with her husband, Andrew, two cats, Fiyero and Luna and her three-legged dog, Violet. She is enthusiastic about teaching and hopes to become a professor at a small college. Some of her favorite things are hand embroidery and baking goodies with her sourdough starter, Breadna. You can contact Rachel at

alexandria Alexandria Purcell, Vice President of 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

Michael Nunneley, Vice President of Events


Michael studies how cell fates are determined in the developing mouse embryo. Specifically, he is investigating how the thymus and parathyroid cell fates are specified. He plans on investigating the transcriptomes of cells in the primordium and surrounding area to identify candidate autonomous specifiers of the thymus and parathyroid and gain a better understanding of how such cells respond to extracellular signals.

20181210_134633 (1) Makenzie Whitener, Vice President of Membership


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

IMG_0505 Morgan Ashcraft, Vice President of Finance


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

hallieflowers Hallie Wright, Vice President of Digital Media


Hallie is a PhD candidate 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, and is the Miss America local titleholder, Miss Collegiate Indy, promoting her social impact initiative, Become an Agvocate.  She loves music and her favorite band is Taking Back Sunday. Feel free to contact her at

carmen Carmen Kraus, Art Director


Carmen Kraus is a scientist and artist from Athens, GA. She has a passion for communicating science creatively to both general and specialized audiences. She loves to hike, travel, climb, construct intricate Halloween costumes, and she also picked up crochet during quarantine.

megan meany Megan Meany, Fundraising Coordinator


Megan is broadly interested in the evolution and development of novel morphology and the gene regulatory pathways that produce these novelties. For her dissertation work she is investigating sex determination mechanisms in the brown anole lizard.

sam Seung Woo (Sam) Kang, National Science Foundation  Liaison


Sam is determining the genetic pathway and molecular mechanisms behind a phenomenon called the thymic involution. I am also trying to understand how the thymic involution affects neuroinflammation, the main hallmark of ageing-associated neurodegenerative diseases.

The Athens Science
 Café Programming Board:

Halmo Stephanie Halmo, Programming Board Member


Stephanie is a biochemistry PhD graduate from UGA. She is passionate about science education research. Stephanie served as the 2017-2018 Program Director for Athens Science Café and wrote with Athens Science Observer. You can connect with her on Twitter @shalmo.

Max Max Colonna, Programming Board Member 


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

Ellen Ellen Skelton, Programming Board Member


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.

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.

Elizabeth Elizabeth Watts, Programming Board Member


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. You can email her at

Gabbie Gabbie Sandstedt, Programming Board Member


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

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.

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