Buzzing with Discovery

Harlan Summer Scholar, Katherine Berry, with Professor of Biology Hartmut Doebel. Harlan Summer Scholar, Katherine Berry, with Professor of Biology Hartmut Doebel.

Student researchers in GW’s Department of Biological Sciences are tackling some of the world’s greatest scientific mysteries. For GW senior Katherine Berry, that mystery was buzzing in her own backyard as a child.

Katherine’s years of watching honeybees pollenate avocado groves at her childhood home inspired the Southern California native to pursue a Biology degree in the George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts & Sciences. She studies pollination, or palynology, observing pollen forager bees by tracking, marking, and collecting their pollen.

Her research is in part made possible thanks to the Wilbur V. (Bill) Harlan Scholarship Trust, which was established in 2009 through a $9 million bequest from Mr. Harlan’s estate. Mr. Harlan, who died in 2006, received a bachelor’s degree in botany from GW in 1935 and briefly served as a lab instructor in the department.

Since being established, the trust has provided GW students with scholarships and summer stipends to pursue their research interests, such as the cell biology of diabetes, the impact of global warming on the life cycle of butterflies and moths, and the evolutionary biology of reptiles and amphibians.

An Opportunity to Explore the Natural World

“These students are the next generation of scientists,” said Diana Lipscomb, chair of the department and the Robert L. Weintraub Professor of Biological Sciences. “The research experience gives our undergraduate and graduate students a connection to how new knowledge and theories are created, and projects often result in published articles by students in scientific journals or presentations at major scientific meetings.”

As a 2012 Harlan Summer Scholar, Katherine Berry analyzed pollen samples using a light microscope and her own unique slide mounting technique under the direction of Assistant Professor of Biology Hartmut Doebel. By studying these samples, she discovered that urban honeybee hives are healthier than rural honeybee hives. Katherine also worked on developing a methodology to help beekeepers check on the nutritional level of their hive through honeybee diet and pollen analysis.

“As a department, we are so grateful Bill Harlan’s foresight in ensuring today’s students get immersed in biological research and have the opportunity to explore the natural world using cutting edge scientific methods,” added Dr. Lipscomb. “He was an accomplished man who never forgot his years at GW.”

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