Alumni (Fellow)

Ray Watson

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


Ray Watson is a Ph.D. candidate in biology where 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.

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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.

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The Jefferson Scholarship is the premier undergraduate scholarship at the University of Virginia. Scholars are selected through a rigorous selection process that is based on exceptional performance in the areas of leadership, scholarship and citizenship.

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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.

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