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Buzzing With Discovery: Harlan Bequest Supports New Generation of Scientists

Berry and Doebel

Katherine Berry and Assistant 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.

Ms. Berry's years of watching honeybees pollinate 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. Ms. Berry studies pollination, or palynology, and is observing pollen forager bees by tracking, marking, and collecting their pollen.

Alumnus Provides for the Research Experience Biology Students Need
Her research is supported by the Wilbur V. (Bill) Harlan Scholarship Trust, which was established in 2009 through a bequest from Mr. Harlan's estate. Mr. Harlan received a bachelor's degree in botany from GW in 1935 and briefly served as a lab instructor in the department. His legacy lives on through his trust, which will support GW biology students' research interests for generations to come.

Since being established, the trust has provided GW students with scholarships and summer stipends to pursue research interests, including 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.

"These students are the next generation of scientists," says Diana Lipscomb, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. "The research experience gives our undergraduate and graduate students a connection to how new knowledge and theories are created, and their projects often result in published articles in scientific journals or presentations at major scientific meetings."

As a 2012 Harlan Summer Scholar, Ms. Berry analyzed pollen samples using a light microscope and her own unique slide mounting technique. By studying these samples, she discovered that urban honeybee hives are healthier than rural honeybee hives. Ms. Berry is currently developing a methodology to help beekeepers check on the nutritional level of their hives through honeybee diet and pollen analysis.

Scholarship Support Allows "Truly Special" Work to Happen in Lab
For the past two years, Assistant Professor of Biology Hartmut Doebel has overseen Katherine Berry and other student researchers as the head of the beekeeping and research team. He's extremely grateful for the Harlan Trust's support of his research with GW's bees—so grateful that he annually donates jars of honey from GW's beehives to the Holiday Tea honoring members of GW's Heritage Society, which recognizes planned giving donors such as Bill Harlan.

"While I have worked with research undergraduate students before, Katherine's (KB) work in my lab was truly special, as she could solely focus on her research thanks to the stipend she received from the Harlan Trust Fund," Professor Doebel says. "Normally, KB would have had to work a job or two, like she even does during the school year. However, her Harlan stipend allowed her to do some real bee research, resulting in some exciting data, which eventually will end up in a publication for KB. Moreover, it has been very rewarding for me to observe the growth in KB, her ability to be a leader and to take initiative. I am most grateful for having had this opportunity."

Accomplished, World Scientist "Never Forgot His Years at GW"
Mr. Harlan began his career in 1938 teaching English in Kabul, Afghanistan, at the advice of a former GW botany professor. During World War II, he served as an instructor and a medical officer in Asia. He later became an agricultural specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which gave him the opportunity to reside in Bolivia, Ecuador, Turkey, and Honduras. After retiring, he continued his travels and lived in Europe for nearly 10 years. Mr. Harlan passed away in 2006.

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

In addition to funding merit-based scholarships and summer stipends for biology students, the Harlan Trust has provided support for the construction of a state-of-the-art greenhouse in GW's new Science and Engineering Hall, which is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Support the Future
If you would like to learn more about supporting the future generation of students at GW with a gift through your estate, please contact Courtney Tsai, JD, CAP ® at 877-498-7590 or

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