Members Area

The Life and Career Changing Effects of a GCA Scholarship


January 18, 2022

2007 Anne S. Chatham Fellowship Recipient Dr. Cassandra Quave

Cassandra Quave, PhD, is a medical ethnobotanist and head of the interdisciplinary Quave Research Group at Emory University. She is also Emory’s herbarium curator and associate professor of Dermatology and Human Health. She is a scientist, professor, and mother with a passion for biodiversity and scientific discovery. Her recent book, The Plant Hunter: A Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines, is part science, part memoir and has been garnering rave reviews and awards.

The Quave Research Group applies an ethnobotanical approach to drug discovery, examining botanical natural products for anti-virulence and antibiotic activity in treatment of multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. This involves field research to document traditional therapies for skin infections, collection of plants for chemical extraction, and bioassay-guided fractionation strategies to isolate novel drugs.

Since being awarded The Garden Club of America’s (GCA) Anne S. Chatham Fellowship in Medicinal Botany in 2007, her career has been on an upward trajectory. The holder of many patents and multiple awards, Dr. Quave still finds time to mentor the next generation and is also celebrated as a top-notch professor as well as an extremely successful researcher. 

“Plants are the basis for many of the medicines we know and use today and may be the source of the solution we need to fight against the impending post-antibiotic era, which is one of the greatest medical challenges plaguing us today,” says Dr. Quave. In The Plant Hunter, Dr. Quave shares her experiences as an ethnobotanist, as well as her ideas about how plants can act as the solution for the antimicrobial resistance era.

Dr. Quave credits the Chatham Fellowship for the important role it played in her early career. “There are not that many funding mechanisms for students interested in medicinal plants and ethnobotany,” remarked Dr. Quave. “Awards are critical at key points early in a scientist’s training. Those early years of research when young scientists are trying to find their path are critical. Science is not a straight path. There are serious mountains that a scientist needs to climb. It is important to have early career opportunities before graduate school. Undergraduate and graduate student scientists need to have the opportunity to understand whether the science of botanicals is something they want to pursue.” 

“Awards like the GCA’s make these young scientists competitive. Young scientists need to publish early and often, go after awards—even if they are small—because it validates their ideas. This is very important: it builds their resume and their expertise at an early point. A few thousand dollars makes a huge difference. It allows the young scientist to purchase supplies, travel to the research site or provide the means of self-support while working on summer research,” explained Dr. Quave.

She continued, “We need to make research opportunities available to everyone, not just to the economically stable students. The GCA is doing important philanthropic work through its scholarship program.”

Of the GCA’s 28 merit-based awards, two are offered in medicinal botany: The Anne S. Chatham Fellowship in Medicinal Botany for graduate-level researchers and The Zeller Summer Scholarship in Medicinal Botany for undergraduate researchers. “When it comes to medicinal botany, we need the GCA’s critical funding mechanism for students,” she said.

Dr. Quave is deeply committed to finding plant-derived molecular compounds to cure devastating diseases. But importantly, she is not only focused on herself and her personal achievements: she is deeply committed to ensuring a bright future for her chosen field. Dr. Quave has mentored many students who already have and will continue to make important discoveries of their own. She has also notably mentored three students who became GCA Scholars: 2018 Zeller Summer Scholar in Medicinal Botany Kat Bagger, 2020 Chatham Fellow in Medicinal Botany Ella Vardeman, and 2021 Zeller Summer Scholar in Medicinal Botany Emily Edwards.

Dr. Quave thanks the GCA for her Chatham Fellowship in Medical Botany, an important part of her early career, and encourages other budding medicinal botanists to apply. The Garden Club of America offers 28 merit-based scholarships and fellowships in 12 areas related to conservation, ecology, horticulture, and pollinator research. In 2021, over $300,000 were awarded to 61 scholars. Follow GCA Scholarships on Twitter for the latest news about pollinators, coastal wetlands, native bird habitats, and much more. Connect to a larger world of horticulture and conservation through the Garden Club of America scholars. Learn more about the GCA Scholarships


Dr. Quave drying plant collections from Expedition Ichauway, Baker County Georgia, before bringing them back to the lab for processing.

Dr. Quave collecting poisonous plants on the island of Levanzo, Sicily

All photo credits: Marco Caputo

above: Dr. Cassandra Quave collecting chestnut tree leaves in Italy, the source of one of her recent discoveries.


See All News