NYC alumni raise funds for Bulldog game-watching venue

Robbie York (ABJ ’05) has made his home in electrifying New York City where he and three partners run American Whiskey Bar and Restaurant in lower Manhattan. During college football season, American Whiskey is a magnet for the 6,100 UGA graduates living in the New York City area. This Bulldog haven proudly displays a red and black banner year-round – a comforting symbol for those far from Athens.

American Whiskey

When American Whiskey was forced to close its doors in March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NYC Dawgs sprang into action to protect their home away from home.

The NYC Alumni Chapter leadership board immediately made personal donations to help cover the staff’s salaries and expenses. It was important to the chapter leaders to support the personnel who do so much to match Sanford Stadium’s game-day energy each Saturday in the fall.

After the NYC alumni board made an initial donation, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to continue supporting the staff as it became more uncertain when the restaurant would open its doors again. All the donations received via the GoFundMe campaign went directly to the staff.

“It amazes me to see the community we’ve built in New York City, and that our alumni feel so connected to our New York chapter that they want to donate,” said Shelby Clayton, president of the NYC Dawgs. “That’s a testament to UGA as an institution, a place where we have common ground to rally together to support those who have supported us.”

As of May 1, more than 320 donors have contributed to the GoFundMe campaign  and raised over $41,000, with the first $10,000 matched by Dawgs 365, a Georgia fan sports group. Even former Georgia football standouts like Aaron Murray (BS ’12), Arthur Lynch (AB ’13) and Tavarres King (BSED ’12), rallied for the cause.

“Donations have been from all over. We have raised a little over $51,000 for our staff,” York says. “The NYC Dawgs were first to ‘answer the bell’ and since then we have received support from Dawgs_365 on Instagram,, and regular game-watching party attendees. We are overwhelmed and humbled by the response as a whole.”

Robbie York

Robbie York (center) was recognized in September in Athens as a 2019 UGA 40 Under 40 honoree.

The NYC Dawgs and American Whiskey also teamed up to host a virtual G-Day tailgate on April 18. More than $800 was raised that day through a variety of games alumni and fans played on Zoom.

G-Day Zoom

The NYC Dawgs hosted a virtual D-Day event on April 18.

If there’s anything this story reveals, it’s that Bulldogs Never Bark Alone. No matter where how far they may travel from Athens, the UGA alumni family supports each other. And during these uncertain times, Bulldogs know that’s all we need: each other.

Do you know a Georgia Bulldog helping others or their alma mater during the COVID-19 outbreak? We’d love to hear their story!

UGA Vet Med alumni step up to welcome 2020 grads to the profession

Like all UGA schools and colleges, the 2020 College of Veterinary Medicine convocation did not happen in person this month. So, in an effort to celebrate these new DVMs (Doctors of Veterinary Medicine), Vet Med enlisted the help of 65 alumni to send hand-written congratulatory notes to each new graduate, and to share fun videos.

There was a delightful welcome from Sugar Hill Animal Hospital (see photo above), featuring West Hamryka (DVM ’90), Kristie Johansen (DVM ’12), Jonathan Bentley (DVM’13), Jennifer Schuler (BSA ’04, DVM ’07) and Layne Doggett (BSA ’12, DVM ’18). Unfortunately, we can’t share it here since it features copyrighted music, but here are some  of the other creations developed by proud UGA alumni:

Beyond these messages of encouragement, all of Vet Med’s alumni have been supportive of their alma mater since UGA transitioned to online courses. Check out this stirring “finish strong” message from Trey Callahan (DVM ’19).

Are you a UGA College of Veterinary Medicine graduate interested in supporting students, faculty or fellow alumni during these trying times? Email Ellen Sims, CVM’s assistant director of alumni relations.



Your chance to ask the UGA experts

If there’s one thing COVID-19 has left us all with, it’s questions. What’s next for our education systems? Can the course of the disease be predicted? Why is it so challenging to communicate relevant science topics to society? How are vaccines developed for infectious diseases?

It’s hard to know what the impact of COVID-19 will be or how long it will change the way we live, but there’s no one better to ask than UGA experts from diverse academic disciplines. In a series of interactive online sessions called the Ask Me Anything series, UGA faculty members will discuss the effects of this global pandemic in their area of expertise.


John Drake


Distinguished Research Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Director at the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases

Thursday, May 7
3:30 PM EST

Can the course of the epidemic be predicted?

Drake will provide an update about the current patterns and potential trajectory of COVID-19 in Georgia and the U.S. Results of computer models that have been developed at the University of Georgia by he and other members of the Coronavirus Working Group will be shared and further explained, with ample opportunities for questions and discussion. Drake will provide a demonstration of the COVID-19 Portal, a repository of data and maps related to the pandemic that is shared with decision-makers and researchers at institutions around the world. As new data become available, Drake and his colleagues continue to refine our understanding of how human interventions can impact the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Glen Nowak UGA AMA


Director of Center for Health & Risk Communication

Tuesday, May 12
3:30 PM EST

Public Health, New Media, and COVID-19: Why is Communicating so Hard?

Information and advice about COVID-19 are being put out daily by public health agencies, elected officials, and news media. The good news, it’s possible to find information and advice quickly on many COVID-19 topics. The bad news, information and advice are often challenging and conflicting. This session will focus on what makes COVID-19 communication, advice, and messaging so difficult, including tips for understanding and using it.

Ted Ross Ask Me Anything UGA


Director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Professor of Infectious Diseases

Thursday, May 14
3:30 PM EST

Infectious Diseases and Vaccine Development

Ross leads a team of researchers at UGA who are working on vaccines to combat the coronavirus. He has spent a large part of his career studying viruses and developing vaccines and treatments.



Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor
Director, Atmospheric Sciences Program

Tuesday, May 19
3:30 PM EST

Zombies, Sports, and Soft Drinks: Implications for communicating complex science topics

Shepherd will use the lens of contemporary events to describe challenges with communicating complex science topics that affect society such as climate change or COVID-19. He will explore biases that shape public perspectives on science and present ways to move forward.


Stephanie Jones is a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor. Hilary Hughes is an Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator.

Thursday, May 21
3:30 PM EST

Teaching and Learning in a time of the COVID-19 Crisis: Imagining What’s Next

As schools have settled into the new normal of managing the crisis as best they can, and some have already started various forms of summer schooling, our attention has turned to what might be possible next. In other words, while this crisis has brought education systems to a screeching halt, it has also become more clear to a lot of people that there are many forms of positive and powerful “education” that have been excluded from schools because of their narrow focus on test preparation and high-stakes testing. This is a moment when we can reimagine what kind of schooling we collectively want for our children and youth.

Michelle vanDellen

Michelle vanDellen

Associate Professor of Social Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia.

Tuesday, May 26
3:30 PM EST 

PsyCorona: A Multinational Research Project Investigating Psychological Reactions to COVID-19.

The spread of COVID-19 is an international phenomena with far reaching implications for physical and economic health. PsyCorona is a multi-national project investigating how psychological factors relate to the spread of the virus. Working with teams of data scientists, vanDellen is connecting psychological factors to big data sets containing information about virus spread and policy implementation. Participants in the study come from 22+ countries and have been tracked weekly since mid-March. VanDellen will overview the study, describe some of the research projects in place that are using the data set, and answer questions about how psychological factors may relate to the spread of COVID-19.


University Professor, Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science and Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor

Thursday, May 28
3:30 PM EST

Bullock is an expert in southern politics, legislative politics and elections and electoral systems. His seminar will discuss how the global pandemic is impacting our political landscape. He is known as a reliable and dependable source to publications like The Atlanta-Journal Constitution and The New York Times.

All sessions are free of charge and are open to anyone who would like to participate. Simply register for a session and you will be sent a Zoom link on the day of the event.

Registration closes at 5:00 PM EST the day before each session takes place.

Questions? Contact

UGA grad connects people in the age of social distancing

It’s no secret that the coronavirus has made dating more complicated. Typical date spots are shut down and those in quarantine alone are prevented from meeting potential romantic interests in person.

But that didn’t stop roommates Rance Nix (ABJ ’14) and Thi Q. Lam from spreading love to thousands of people throughout New York City on their Love is Blind spinoff called Love is Quarantine.

While hunkered down in quarantine, the two binge-watched Love is Blind, just before the governor of New York City issued “stay-at-home” orders. This inspired Nix’s roommate, Lam, to recreate the show to connect people and help them adapt to the new COVID-19 dating realties.

“I’m committed to doing my part by staying home, practicing social distancing, and giving back where I am able to do so,” said Nix. “Love is Quarantine has been an awesome opportunity to spread love and get people’s minds off of the pandemic and chaos in the world.”

On March 17, they began setting up friends and mutual friends on blind telephone dates. Participants put their names and numbers in a Google Sheet. From there, Nix texted couples directly and asked them to pick up the phone and have a conversation…and then the dates began!

The show exists entirely on Instagram. After each date, participants record faceless videos that recount their experience.

The social-media based show quickly caught the attention of thousands- including the media. Since the launch, they have aired 9 episodes with over 50 dating contestants. Their Instagram has grown to 18.8k followers and outlets including the New York Times, Forbes and the Washington Post have covered Nix and Lam’s project.

Given their booming popularity, the pair has sold Love is Quarantine merchandise and donated the proceeds to Feeding America.

Full of Georgia spirit and a smile that never wavers, Nix can brighten just about anyone’s day. As an undergraduate on campus, you could find him creating hype songs for game days, on the sidelines cheering at sporting events or campaigning for student government.

Do you know a Georgia Bulldog helping others or their alma mater during the COVID-19 outbreak? We’d love to hear their story!

UGA horticulture expert offers tips on growing vegetables at home

This was written by Bob Westerfield and originally posted to UGA CAES News on April 20, 2020. 

While adults and children spend more time at home as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, planting a garden or container garden is a great activity to plan together. It’s outside, active, educational and edible. With some grocery stores taking longer than usual to stock some items, vegetable gardening is a great way to keep your refrigerator stocked.

For those who have never considered growing their own vegetables, the task may seem daunting, but it’s actually a very simple process.

Vegetables need soil, sunlight, moisture and fertility. Any location in your landscape that receives at least six hours of sunlight could be a good location for growing your crop. The amount of space you have available will dictate the size of your garden. Even very small gardens can produce a surprising quantity of vegetables and easily feed a family of four or more.


Squash plants grow in the UGA Research and Education Garden.

One simple method of getting started is to grow vegetables in raised beds. Treated lumber, two feet by six feet or larger, can be safely be used to form the sides of the bed. Compost, manure or bagged topsoil are good amendments to use to fill the beds.

Soil temperatures have just arrived at the perfect level for planting vegetables. Summer vegetables can be planted between now and June, so there is plenty of time to plant a garden.

I would suggest purchasing transplants of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Theses crops do not establish easily if planted directly into the garden from seed. Other vegetables, such as squash, corn, cucumbers, beans, okra and melons, can be directly seeded into the garden with excellent success.


Take care to plant seeds at the proper depth recommended on the seed packet. Apply a light starter fertilizer, such as 5-10-15, at planting time to give vegetables initial nutrition. More fertilizer should be applied after vegetables have been pollinated and are developing tiny fruits.

Soil testing, available through your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension office, is the best way to know the true nutritional needs of your garden soil.

Some form of irrigation will be necessary to help vegetables get started and maintain them through the growing season. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are the best options to conserve moisture and keep plants dry. Overhead irrigation, however, can be used when it is the only option.

Most vegetables require one to two inches of water per week. Raised beds tend to drain much faster and may require additional applications of water. Organic mulch placed around vegetable plants will help conserve moisture and help keep weeds under control.

As the season progresses, keep a careful eye on your developing vegetable plants. Insects, disease and even weeds can take over quickly if not kept in check. Proper identification of the pests is essential in choosing the right control. UGA Extension can help identify pest issues and recommend the best controls.

Don’t let these difficult times keep you down and feeling helpless. Turn your backyard into vegetable heaven and enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor. Supplies can be ordered online if you don’t want to don your mask and practice social distancing at your local garden center.

For additional gardening information, visit to view numerous related publications. Search the topics for a specific variety you are interested in growing, such as corn, beans, squash, okra, etc. Other suggested publications include:

Home Gardening (Bulletin 577)
Vegetable Gardening in Georgia (Circular 963)
Vegetable Garden Calendar (Circular 943)
Weed Control Options for the Home Vegetable Gardener (Circular 1144)
Raised Beds vs. In-Ground Gardens (Circular 1027-3)
Growing Vegetables Organically (Bulletin 1011)

Bob Westerfield is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Helping Bulldogs feel a little less alone through art

Thanks to Hillary Brown (AB ’00, MA ’10), director of communications for the Georgia Museum of Art, for this guest blog. All images provided by the Georgia Museum of Art.

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia usually hosts tens of thousands of visitors a year with tours and programs, but that’s not possible at the moment. With COVID-19 keeping people in their homes, the museum’s staff, many of whom are UGA alumni, saw an opportunity to serve an even wider audience than usual, bringing programming to visitors rather than the other way around and helping Bulldogs feel a little less alone through art.

Online Exhibitions

The museum worked with Athens firm The Adsmith [owned by Kirk Smith (BFA ’85)] to put existing and upcoming exhibitions online, incorporating 360-degree views of galleries where art was installed. Although these exhibitions do not have the same effect as wandering the galleries in person, they can also stay up indefinitely, reaching a larger group of visitors. The annual master of fine arts degree candidates’ exhibition for the Lamar Dodd School of Art, a tradition dating back decades, was reconfigured into an online format that allowed for greater flexibility and gave graduating students a way to show their work.

The exhibition “Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection” was only partway through its scheduled run and many people were disappointed to have missed the opportunity to see it. The Richard H. Driehaus Museum allowed the Georgia Museum of Art to use the files from its Acoustiguide tour to create a virtual tour of the show, available on YouTube through May 10.

Other exhibitions available online include “The Monsters Are Due on Broad Street: Patrick Dean” (BFA ’97), “Drama and Devotion in Baroque Rome” and “Rediscovering the Art of Victoria Hutson Huntley,” with more to come soon.

Yoga in the Galleries

Shannon Ball (BSED ’96), co-owner of Five Points Yoga, leads “Yoga in the Galleries” via Zoom.

Online Education Opportunities

The museum’s education staff [Callan Steinmann (AB ’07, PHD ’17), Sage Kincaid (AB ’05, PHD ’22), Emily Hogrefe-Ribeiro (PHD ’22) and Madison Hogan (AB ’18)] has been traveling to the building once a week to stream Yoga in the Galleries and Morning Mindfulness programs via Zoom (while maintaining a safe distance from the instructors teaching those courses!). Presenting them online has doubled the number of visitors participating.

A four-part art class on introductory printmaking techniques also moved to Zoom, allowing the museum to teach new skills and pay local artist Brian Hitselberger (MFA ’10) for his time teaching. Curators have recorded mini tours in the galleries to replace the museum’s usual weekly tour every Tuesday at 2 p.m., and, when possible, planned lectures are being recorded and put online. YouTube’s subtitles and the now-asynchronous format of these programs also increase their accessibility.

Step-by-step images of the creation of styrofoam plate art,

Art at Home: Styrofoam Plate Cityscapes project in conjunction with the exhibition “Rediscovering the Art of Victoria Hutson Huntley.”

Online Programs and Events

Many of the new and revised programs point the way forward to better ways of reaching audiences, such as the museum’s new Art at Home page, which includes simple art projects that can be made with easy-to-find materials. The museum already had downloadable teacher packets on its website, with activities and suggested lesson plans keyed to Georgia Performance Standards in art, language arts, history, science, math, engineering and other disciplines.

Family Day, one of the museum’s most popular programs, has moved online, too, with Art at Home activities and kits that can be ordered for free from Athens’ K.A. Artist Shop, sponsored by Heyward Allen Toyota, Heyward Allen Motor Company and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art. The Museum Shop is still fulfilling orders for books, including many of the ones associated with the Tiffany exhibition, and the museum’s blog is updating more often than its usual weekly schedule. Crosswords with the hashtag #museumgames post weekly, and you can find a Daily Inspiration on Instagram Monday through Friday. Weekends bring close-looking activities with interactive components through Instagram Stories. No matter the program, the museum is working on ways to bring it to you and help us all find a window through art.

Donating to the Community

Staff members also went through museum materials, donating personal protective equipment to organizations in need and assembling art kits for Clarke County School District (CCSD) students that could be picked up at CCSD meal-distribution sites. Work continues behind the scenes as well, with preparators framing and unframing art and working to schedule pickups and drop-offs, donations being processed as usual, registrars revising loan agreements and continuing to add objects to the museum’s online collections database (currently at more than 7,000 objects), curators working on reconfiguring the exhibition schedule and writing for upcoming shows, and all busily planning for the future while adapting on the fly.

The best way to keep up with what the museum is working on is to follow its accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Bulldogs answer the call for hand sanitizer

Communities everywhere were feeling the panic. Store shelves were stripped bare. Online orders were backlogged. Hand sanitizer was simply not available. That is, until enterprising and altruistic UGA alumni across the state of Georgia took rectifying the shortage into their own paws!


Georgia Pharmacists with compounding labs quickly mobilized into whipping up batches of hand sanitizer:

Dean Stone of IHS Pharmacy & Gifts delivers hand sanitizer to Candler County Sheriff John Miles & his team.” (photo provided by Dean Stone)

Dean Stone of IHS Pharmacy & Gifts delivers hand sanitizer to Candler County Sheriff John Miles & his team.” (photo provided by Dean Stone)


Distilleries had alcohol, and with that, they started to produce hand sanitizer:

Kelly and Jim Chasteen with hand sanitizer produced at ASW Distillery. (photo provided by Jim Chasteen)

Kelly and Jim Chasteen with hand sanitizer produced at ASW Distillery. (photo provided by Jim Chasteen)


Breweries were not to be left out. They, too, are converting their facilities to bottle up hand sanitizer:

Clean Creature hand sanitizer courtesy of Creature Comforts

(Clean Creature hand sanitizer photo courtesy of Creature Comforts Brewing Company)

Tony SIngletary and Tripp Morgan with Pretoria Fields message of hope

Tony Singletary and Tripp Morgan in front of Pretoria Fields Brewery’s message of hope for the community. (photo courtesy of Pretoria Fields Brewery)


All around the Bulldog Nation, University of Georgia alumni are answering the call. Share your stories of Dawgs helping Dawgs!

Accomplished alumnae mentor series goes virtual

This post was written by Rachel Webster (ABJ ’08), member of the Women of UGA Council.

Early on a recent Monday morning, a cohort of UGA alumnae prepared their breakfasts, poured their coffee into their favorite mugs, and got together for an inspiring panel discussion. Virtually, of course, each participant joining from their personal computer. It was the Women of UGA Leadership Council’s first Mentorship Monday hosted remotely in this time of social distancing.

The Mentorship Monday series is a unique opportunity for women in the metro-Atlanta area to discuss professional development topics and grow their professional network. Each cohort of approximately 50 participants meets six times, normally in-person, for a breakfast and discussion on leadership and career topics featuring other illustrious UGA alumnae. For this session, the Women of UGA Leadership Council’s Mentorship Committee decided to continue the discussion while keeping all the participants safe by moving the whole event online.

Mentorship Mondays Online

Virtual Mentorship Monday panel: moderator Women of UGA Council Member Laura Jalbert (BSW ’99, MSW ’00) and panelists Robbin Steed (ABJ ’85), Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08), Christie Diez (ABJ ’12), and Amanda White (MBA ’16)

The latest event featured a panel of women who have built their careers at 11Alive and TEGNA in Atlanta. Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08), Christie Diez (ABJ ’12), and Amanda White (MBA ’16) were featured in a panel discussion moderated by Robbin Steed (ABJ ’85) and hosted by Women of UGA Council Member Laura Jalbert (BSW ’99, MSW ’00).

With this dynamic group, topics ranged from the importance of mentorship in building and advancing a career, how COVID-19 has affected the work and professional schedules of the panelists, and stories and tips from inside the television and media worlds. Mentorship Monday participants were able to submit their questions to the panel real-time via the ZOOM meeting interface.

Women of UGA Council Member Crystal Filiberto (AB ’07) attended the virtual session and noted that while the usual in-person fellowship was lacking, she appreciated how personal the session still felt. “In a time that we are being asked to cancel events, keep distance between us and our loved ones, and shelter in place, I think people are yearning to find some sense of normalcy and comfort. Connection looks different these days.”

As often happens in Mentorship Monday sessions, Crystal also distilled a valuable takeaway from the speakers: “Don’t wait for a title. You can be a leader from any position.” To her, that meant tapping into compassion and kindness as every person works through the effects of the virus on our communities. “Be a leader from any position, including from my makeshift desk during a pandemic,” she summarized.

The Women of UGA Leadership Committee is committed to creating other opportunities for alums to connect, virtually until in-person meetings are viable and safe. Find out more at the Women of UGA webpage or on their social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Alumnae researchers model caution and hope for life beyond lockdown

From left: Erin Mordecai (BS ’07) and Mallory Harris (BS ’18)

Erin Mordecai (BS ’07) and Mallory Harris (BS ’18) both began their pursuit of higher education in Athens.

Now they are at Stanford University, where Mordecai is an assistant professor of biology leading Harris, a Ph.D. student, on a team of infectious diseases researchers. Mordecai recently made headlines for a COVID-19 intervention model her team developed.

Preventing a second wave

Their interactive website allows users to model the spread of COVID-19 over time using non-pharmaceutical interventions, like social distancing and quarantine. Wary of the resurgence of the 1918 flu pandemic, when most major cities ended control measures within eight weeks, Mordecai and her team wanted to help people understand the effectiveness of long-term strategies.

“Our model, and historical evidence, shows that fully lifting control measures at any point in the epidemic could lead to a second wave,” Mordecai said. “When you have a population where most of the people remain susceptible, fully returning to business as usual is extremely risky, and could result in many lives lost unnecessarily.”

Screenshot of the interactive website developed by Mordecai’s team. Source:

 As communities begin assessing how long social distancing measures need to be in place, Mordecai believes it is important to recognize how to prevent a resurgence.

“There’s a lag of about three weeks between an intervention being lifted and its resulting effect on deaths,” Mordecai said. “Since we don’t yet have adequate testing capacity in most regions of the U.S., policymakers won’t be able to begin assessing the results of their actions until three weeks later, when the virus could have spread widely through the population.”

In order to prevent that problem, communities are developing processes to manage a potential second wave.

“There may be some potential to bring a second peak under control and respond more quickly if testing is sufficiently widespread prior to reopening and if it’s combined with rigorous contact tracing and infected isolation,” Mordecai said.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for communities eager to return to normalcy. However, communities must be prepared to move to a test-and-trace system, in which testing is widespread and those who encounter sick individuals are isolated. They also must be able to intensify and relax social distancing and quarantine measures based on the number of hospitalizations and deaths.

“Our work shows that we could considerably relax the level of social distancing we’re practicing in the general population if we could more comprehensively test all symptomatic and high-risk individuals for COVID-19 and isolate them to prevent transmission,” Mordecai explained.

Mordecai’s model has become a useful tool for San Francisco Bay Area public officials as it allows them to compare different exit strategies, while seeing how their policies now will affect their options down the road.

The Georgia Connection

Mordecai was a Foundation Fellow, a Ramsey scholar and an honors student while at UGA, where she earned her honors interdisciplinary studies degree in mathematical biology. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Fortunately for me, UGA remains a world leader in the ecology of infectious disease, and these deep research connections continue to bring me back to campus at least once a year,” Mordecai said.

As for how two UGA alumnae came to work in the same lab on the opposite side of the country from Athens, Mordecai and Harris attribute their good fortunes to Jessica Hunt, the assistant director and scholarships coordinator for the UGA Honors Program.

“I will be forever grateful for Jessica for putting Mallory in touch with me,” Mordecai said. “Jessica saw the connection between Mallory’s interest in modeling infectious disease dynamics and my lab’s work on understanding how climate affects vector-borne disease.”

Harris (right) conducted research alongside distinguished research professor John Drake (left) as an undergraduate at UGA. Drake introduced Harris to a mathematical method to forecast where and when a disease outbreak will happen.

Harris, originally from Dunwoody, chose UGA over Harvard University to become a Foundation Fellow. As a sophomore, Harris received a Center for Undergraduate Research Office (CURO) scholarship to conduct research alongside John Drake, distinguished research professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the Odum School of Ecology. Drake introduced Harris to a mathematical method to forecast where and when a disease outbreak will happen. Through her research, Harris determined that this method can predict the movement of mosquito-transmitted diseases. For her discovery, Harris was awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, a national scholarship for undergraduate students pursuing research careers.

She spent the summer of 2017 working as a National Science Foundation-funded researcher in Mordecai’s lab, where she studied Zika emergence and how its spread depended on climate. She also worked in John Drake’s lab at the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases during her undergraduate career, studying the forecasting of vector-borne disease resurgence.

When Harris was ready to graduate with degrees in mathematics and computational biology, Mordecai was happy to recruit her to Stanford to pursue her Ph.D. Harris received the prestigious Knight-Hennessy Fellowship and joined Mordecai’s lab in fall of 2019.

“I was really fortunate to have the experience of working with Dr. Mordecai prior to applying to graduate school,” Harris said. “I already knew that she’d help me grow as a scientist, but also that she’d look out for me as a person over the next several years.”

In addition to COVID-19 and infectious diseases, Mordecai also keeps Harris updated on Georgia football news. As for Harris’ plans after graduate school, she plans to continue working to improve the response to public health emergencies.

“I’d like to help guide predictive approaches to infectious diseases through modeling, so that we can respond to diseases more quickly and effectively,” Harris said. “Right now, I’m particularly interested in the ways that local governmental decisions affected outcomes in the early stages of the pandemic.”


Make a gift to the COVID-19 Research Fund to support collaborative research efforts related to COVID-19 at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. Or become a support system for a UGA student, like Mordecai is for Harris, by joining the UGA Mentor Program.

Andrew McKown (BS ’07) fights COVID-19 in the ICU

Dr. Andrew McKown (BS ’07) walked into the intensive care unit of Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center one morning early in 2020 at 7 a.m. He reviewed patients’ charts, consulted with staff on overnight developments, visited patients and performed a litany of medical tasks that kept him busy until about 7 p.m.

That was three months ago. Today, McKown’s 12-hour day also includes multiple sets of gowns, masks and gloves he must wear all day long, phone calls providing updates to patients’ families who can no longer visit their loved ones, a hooded face shield blowing air in his face and the research required to keep up with a global pandemic.

“It’s … been interesting,” said McKown. “My work has changed dramatically.”

McKown is face-to-face with COVID-19, serving his community in a vital way few can, and his story began at the University of Georgia.

“It’s kind of a family thing”

McKown grew up in East Cobb, near Marietta. He excelled at George Walton Comprehensive High School and applied to several colleges, but after being offered a Foundation Fellowship, he decided on UGA—a decision that was met with strong familial approval.

Andrew McKown's UGA graduation photo, 2007

McKown’s UGA graduation photo

“I come from a huge UGA family: My parents, both of my sisters, two of my mom’s three siblings, my mom’s parents, my mom’s aunt—who studied and taught there—and five of my cousins attended UGA,” said McKown. “It’s kind of a family thing.”

The Foundation Fellowship that attracted him to UGA provided experiences that became the bedrock for the rest of his education and career. Foundation Fellowships are UGA’s foremost undergraduate scholarships, placing students in a community of similarly dedicated scholars and offering numerous grants for travel-study, which McKown used to study in Thailand and Uganda.

In Thailand, he aided and observed medical staff at a rural clinic, and the experience made an impression: When he returned to Athens, McKown directed his focus toward global health and began taking classes at the then-newly founded College of Public Health. His subsequent trip to work at a health center in Uganda built upon this, as did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention internship that used data gathered in Uganda to study costs associated with medical sharps disposal.

A Bulldog in Boston

After graduating from UGA in 2007, McKown applied to and was accepted at Harvard Medical School. For the next four years, he studied at one of the world’s premier medical institutions, broadening his horizons in a big city and meeting people from around the world, including his wife, Ellen House.

The two native southerners—House is from North Carolina—grew their relationship while McKown completed medical school followed by a residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and while House completed a psychiatry residency and fellowship.

In his third year of med school, McKown took a critical care rotation, a choice that would prove pivotal in growing his interest in pulmonology.

“I’ve always been a math and science guy,” said McKown. “I liked the physics of how we could use a ventilator to breathe for people, how exactly it works and how we pick the right settings to use. It fascinated me, so I thought that’s where [my career] might be heading.”

House and McKown at the white coat ceremony marking the beginning of his residency at Mass General

House and McKown at the white coat ceremony marking the beginning of his residency at Mass General

That focus on pulmonology would play a role in McKown’s next step, but another event, in the final year of his residency, played an even bigger role: the birth of his daughter, Georgia.

“Boston was great, but it can be a tough place to raise a family when you’re a long way from [your own family],” said McKown. “We debated what to do, and we thought hard about staying, but we also thought about moving south.”

After some research, McKown, House, and Georgia made their way to Nashville and Vanderbilt University in 2014. This move placed them close to both extended families, and Vanderbilt presented unique opportunities for both young doctors. House joined the psychiatry faculty at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and McKown took a pulmonary/critical care fellowship at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Returning to the Classic City

After completing the fellowship, McKown wanted to find a place he could practice medicine and teach. He enjoyed teaching resident physicians during his fellowship, and House wanted to continue teaching at a medical school. Also,  the family wanted to stay in the Southeast. Fortunately, a connection from McKown’s UGA past opened a door.

Andrew McKown and children on one of Athens' bulldog statues

McKown and children on one of Athens’ bulldog statues

“I reached out to Matt Crim (AB ’05, BS ’05)—someone I knew through the Foundation Fellowship who is now at Piedmont Athens Regional—to find out about his experience. He was positive about Athens, the growing medical community and medical school, and he put me in touch with Athens Pulmonary.”

With that, wheels went into motion. Today, House is a psychiatrist at UGA’s University Health Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry with the Augusta University/UGA Medical Partnership, and McKown is a physician with Athens Pulmonary. The family of four—they now have a young son, Baker—has now been in Athens for close to two years.

“After having been in Boston for seven years and Nashville for four, the first reaction was, ‘Oh wow, [Athens] is so much smaller than I remember,’” McKown joked. “But it’s a really great and positive community. We love where we live.”

In the two years since his return, McKown and his family have made Athens their home, turning neighbors into friends, finding restaurants they like and advancing in their work. House has received awards for her teaching at the medical school, and earlier this year, McKown was named the co-director of Piedmont Athens Regional’s intensive care unit.

“Normally, you know what to do”

But for McKown, the past two months may make the past two years seem much more distant. As COVID-19 swept across the planet, Athens Pulmonary doubled its daily commitment of physicians to affiliated hospitals and overhauled their doctors’ call schedules. And while having an unpredictable daily schedule creates a certain amount of stress, it pales in comparison to the work of treating this disease.

“Normally, when a patient comes in and they have respiratory failure, you know what to do,” said McKown. “[But] when a patient comes in with COVID-19? How we managed it three weeks ago is different from how we managed it last week. I mean, it’s crazy. The shift in medical opinion was great enough that it profoundly changed our management just in the last few weeks.”

McKown also cautions that the world is not out of the woods yet. If we don’t remain vigilant, things could still turn for the worse.

“We have been fortunate here, so far, to not have the crush that they have in New York, and that’s because we’ve had success with social distancing measures,” said McKown. “I’ve talked to friends who practice up there, and it is a whole different world. And it’s a bit of a fear of mine that people will look at our success up to now and still say, ‘why did we do what we did?’

“But I’ve seen people across the age spectrum critically ill, close to death, here in Athens from COVID-19. And if we don’t continue to take the necessary steps to slow the spread of infection, there could be so many of them that we will be strained to take care of them all.”

However, there are reasons to feel positive. McKown said that he’s been deeply impressed with Piedmont Athens Regional’s leadership, having been a part of the many meetings discussing plans and contingencies for the hospital.

“I’m also thankful for the huge outpouring of support from the community,” said McKown. “There are signs all over the hospital from the community that are, essentially, a cheering section for the hospitals. There’s been a number of gifts from the community, like hand-sewn face masks. UGA’s creating face shields. All of these things are amazing, and they are impactful.”

If you know a Bulldog on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight, share your story with the UGA Alumni Association.