Activity on university campuses usually slows down a bit during the lazy days of summer. That isn’t the case at GW, where during the summer months you can find biology students peering through microscopes while injecting flies with bacteria; reaching into aquariums of spiny sea urchins to research serotonin receptors; and describing new species of spiders and constructing evolutionary trees. This fascinating work is made possible through summer research stipends funded by the Wilbur V. Harlan Scholarship Trust.
The late Wilbur “Bill” Harlan received a bachelor’s degree in botany from GW in 1935 and briefly served as a lab instructor in the department. (Botany is now part of the Department of Biological Sciences.) He began a career teaching English in Afghanistan in 1938 at the advice of his former botany professor, and went on to work and travel extensively around the world, including in Asia, Europe, and South and Central America. The Harlan Trust provides students with unique opportunities and experiences that enhance their qualifications for postgraduate studies and careers in research, academics, and health sciences. Working with faculty advisors, Harlan Scholars conduct research on a variety of topics from the molecular biology of diabetes to the ecological interaction between plants and the insects that feed and live on them. They go into the field, and back at the lab, describe and analyze the specimens and data they have gathered.
They also learn how to perform background literature research; write different parts of a research paper from the abstract to the discussion; lay out and create a scientific poster; and communicate and publish their work. Students leave with the ability to be stewards of their research and of science.
“Our students and faculty are extremely grateful to the Harlan Trust, as am I, for providing all of these opportunities to be active participants in the exploration of the wonders of biology.”