Alumni (Fellow)

Ray Watson

Melville Foundation Jefferson Fellow
Greencastle, Pennsylvania
B.A. Swarthmore College (2013)
M.S. University of Virginia (2018)
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences


Ray Watson holds a Ph.D. in biology. His research focuses on understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying domestication. Using DNA from archeological samples and modern plant breeding techniques, Ray studies how Native Americans transformed a weedy bush into the oil-producing giant sunflower we recognize today. He has presented his work at the national conferences including Evolution and Plant & Animal Genomes as well as at The Arnold Arboretum at Harvard. Ray has also developed and led workshops on genomic sequencing and sunflowers at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Ray earned his B.A. in biology and religion from Swarthmore College in 2013.

Connect with our community

View Alumni



The Jefferson Fellowship is the premier graduate fellowship offered at the University of Virginia. Based solely on merit, the Fellowship seeks to attract Ph.D. and M.B.A. candidates.

Read more

David and Jane Walentas

A transformational gift for UVA — $100 million to benefit first-generation students

Read more


The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, like its namesake, knows that virtue and talent come from all walks of life. Indeed it is this knowledge that drives the Foundation to search the world over for its recipients.

Read more