Student presenting her work to a professor at a Harlan Research Poster event


Amid a competitive funding climate, the Department of Biological Sciences is awarded millions of dollars in research grants every year. Students and faculty work together to find treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, watch research projects grow in the greenhouse, preserve the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and uncover new species of dinosaurs.

Whether in the Gobi Desert or the mid-Atlantic,  biological fieldwork and exploration is happening across the globe. With connections to the Organization for Tropical Studies and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, students have access to tropical biology courses in Costa Rica and extensive museum collections here in the nation’s capital.


Biology Research by the Numbers 

2.8 Million Awarded in Research Funding


34 active funded research grants


100 peer-reviewed articles published annually, on average, by faculty




Types of Research Opportunities

Undergraduate students in the lab

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate students can begin research projects early in their studies and continue for multiple years, building strong mentoring relationships with faculty members along the way. Student research often culminates in poster presentations, honors theses and awards.

Graduate student using a microscope

Graduate Research

Research forms the backbone of graduate study, and generally falls under two areas: Cellular and Molecular Biology and Systematics, Evolution and Ecology. Many biology graduate students see their work published, and some present research at national conferences.

professor in the greenhouse

Faculty Research

Between creating a Zika vaccine, tracking the effects of global warming, charting evolutionary history and discovering new species, our distinguished faculty stay busy. Students are encouraged to reach out to faculty members about research projects that interest them.


Research in Action

The mainland ground anole Anolis tandai from Brazil. (Photo: Ivan Prates)

Q & A: New Research Explores Evolutionary History of Central and South American Anoles

Jonathan Huie, a CCAS doctoral student, recently published a paper that bucks long held assumptions about which environments are hotbeds for extreme morphologies.

Artist's reconstruction of the Mongolian alvarezsaur Shuvuuia deserti hunting for insects at night.

Did Dinosaurs Hunt in the Dark?

An international research team including biology professor James Clark studied how a tiny desert-living dinosaur used precise vision and owl-like hearing for nocturnal hunting.

A Brood X cicada

GW Researchers Bust Myths about Looming ‘Cicada Invasion’

Periodical cicadas will play an important ecological role across the Eastern United States when they emerge this spring, and no—they don’t bite.
A row of wind turbines in the distance across a field of flowers

On Climate, GW Scientists See Biden Plans as Fresh Air

The incoming administration has proposed a broad strategy to address climate change. The Biology Department's Tara Scully and other GW scientists say the new administration can reach crucial environmental goals — but time is running out.
A barren landscape with dead tree trunks growing out of a marsh

Ghosts of the Coast: Artists and Scientists Bring ‘Ghost Forests’ to Life

Biology Professor Keryn Gedan is joining artists and scientists on Virginia’s Eastern Shore to draw attention to “ghost forests” along the Chesapeake Bay.“They are evocative, very visible signs of climate change,” Gedan said. “In some ways, a scientific paper just can’t capture the spooky feeling you get when you are out in the marshes surrounded by all these dead trees.”

Senior biology major Alison Pagalilauan (left) and senior physics major Ujwal Kumar

Getting Creative: Biology Student Continues Research From Home

Rising senior biology major Alison Pagalilauan was engrossed in her research on analyzing meta-genomic data from steam vent samples collected in Hawaii’s Kilauea East Rift Zone when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campus. Since then, Pagalilauan has used an online interface to continue her research from her home in New Jersey.
Image of a ruler next to a fungi sample

New Study Reveals How Wood Decay Drives Carbon Cycle

Through a combination of lab and field experiments, Associate Professor of Biology Amy Zanne and a team of researchers have developed a better understanding of the factors accounting for different wood decomposition rates among fungi. Their findings reveal how deciphering fungal trait variation can improve the predictive ability of early and mid-stage wood decay, a critical driver of the global carbon cycle.

research team working together

Save the Honeybees

Almost half of America’s bees have disappeared in just a decade, and the root of the problem is still uncertain. Assistant Professor of Biology Hartmut Doebel led a team of undergraduate research assistants on the case. The team zeroed in on one suspect: a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Ricky Zhu, a biology major and lead research assistant in Doebel’s lab, said that he and his fellow student researchers felt proud ownership over the work. “We nurture it. It’s our baby.”