Society & Culture

UGA Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities announces 2011 Promising Scholars

UGA CURO Promising Scholars 2011
The 2011 UGA CURO Promising Scholars are (l-r): Front row: Nadia Ogene; Ho Chan Lee; Maria Cox; Matthew Plott; Aveek Sarker; Natalee DukesBack row: Hope Foskey; Colby Ruiz; Cole Skinner; Babajide Oluwadare; Ikeena Porter

Athens, Ga. – A group of high school seniors received a preview of undergraduate research and campus life when they attended the University of Georgia Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Symposium in early April as CURO Promising Scholars.

The eleven students were honored by CURO for their outstanding academic achievements during the annual spring event where more than 180 UGA students presented their research projects.

The Promising Scholars’ campus visit included discussions with current first- and second-year students who participate in CURO’s Apprentice program and campus tours led by the Apprentices. UGA faculty also were available to provide information on the rigors and expectations of the undergraduate research experience as well as their individual fields of research.

Faculty involved in the panel discussions included: Carl Bergmann, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center; Marcus Fechheimer, cellular biology; Russell Karls, infectious diseases; William Kisaalita, biological and agricultural engineering; Barbara McCaskill, English; Leara Rhodes, journalism; Susan Sanchez, infectious diseases;Walter Schmidt, biochemistry and molecular biology; and Brock Tessman, international affairs.

“CURO Promising Scholars are highly impressive individuals,” said David S. Williams, associate provost and director of the Honors Program. “They have already demonstrated, as high school students, that they have both an interest in and an aptitude for research. By attending the CURO Symposium and meeting current UGA students who are doing research with our premier faculty members, those who end up coming to UGA can hit the ground running when they get here.”

Since 2005, the Promising Scholars Program has been a fundamental part of CURO and began with financial support from two National Science Foundation grants.

Promising Scholar Colby Ruiz, who is from Valdosta, appreciated the opportunity to see first-hand the results of participating in undergraduate research, especially since he wants to become a doctor.

“To me, undergraduate research is almost inseparable from a complete and well-rounded undergraduate education,” said Ruiz, who is a senior at Open Bible Christian School in Valdosta. “I believe it is an excellent way to further the development of problem-solving skills in ways classwork cannot.”

Interacting with the CURO Apprentices was another highlight for many Promising Scholars, such as Maria Cox of Peachtree City and Aveek Sarker of Duluth.

“My favorite part of the weekend was definitely meeting the current CURO Apprentices,” said Cox, who is a senior at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. “They are truly the faces of the program, and their individual experiences made the visit more personable and exciting.”

“The pure enthusiasm all the students had for the University of Georgia really was infectious and already made me feel as if I was a part of the community,” added Sarker, who is a senior at Duluth High School in Duluth.

That community spirit was emphasized during the luncheon panel in which the Apprentices shared their perspectives about balancing academic and research responsibilities. Among those speaking was first-year Apprentice Sam Hempel of Atlanta and second-year Apprentices Rachel Johnson of Lawrenceville and Oluremi Ojo of Stone Mountain. They served as group leaders during the visit.

“I think it was reassuring for these high school students to see and understand that UGA, with 26,000 undergrads, becomes much smaller and less intimidating if you are a part of the CURO community,” said Hempel, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.

Johnson, who is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in microbiology and Spanish, and Ojo, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences, were Promising Scholars in 2009.

“As an Apprentice, I cherish the opportunity to serve as a mentor for these students,” said Johnson. “I want to encourage them as I was encouraged. I hope to portray the CURO research experience with as much enthusiasm as possible, for it has truly been one of my best experiences at UGA.”

“It was a little surreal,” said Ojo. “It seems like it was yesterday that I was asking the same questions. I really liked being able to offer sincere advice to the Promising Scholars.”

The 2011 Promising Scholars are:

Name / Hometown / High School

Aveek Sarker / Duluth / Duluth High School

Babajide Oluwadare / Stone Mountain / Stephenson High School

Hope Foskey / Matthews, N.C. / Charlotte Christian School (N.C.)

Ho Chan Lee / Suwanee / North Gwinnett High School

Ikenna Porter / Columbus / Columbus High School

Maria Cox / Peachtree City / Episcopal High School (Va.)

Matthew Plott / Collegedale, Tenn. / Collegedale Academy (Tenn.)

Colby Ruiz / Valdosta / Open Bible Christian School

Nadia Ogene / Marietta / Sprayberry High School

Natalee Dukes / Conyers / Heritage High School

Cole Skinner / Savannah / Savannah Country Day School

For more information on UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, see