Wilbur V. Harlan Research Fellowship


Harlan undergraduate research group working outside during a  field study trip to Kingman and Heritage Islands in Southeast Washington, D.C.

Harlan summer fellows took a field study trip to Kingman and Heritage Islands in Southeast Washington, D.C.

Each year, select undergraduate biology majors earn merit-based scholarships supported by the Wilbur V. Harlan Trust. Under the guidance of a biology faculty member, students spend 14 weeks (mid-May to August) conducting an independent research project, learning research skills and networking with other students and researchers. The research projects may extend into the academic year and provide excellent experience for any undergraduate who wishes to continue a career in science.

The Harlan Trust was established in 2011 through a generous bequest from the estate of Wilbur V. (Bill) Harlan, BS ’35. Past Harlan scholars have conducted research to explore the role of fungal species interactions in forest ecosystems, examined the developmental pattern of tissues in the fish head and their function in the adult organism and applied CRISPR gene editing methods to butterfly wing patterns.


Summer Curriculum

In addition to their research work, Harlan fellows take trips to visit scientists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian National Zoo and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Fellows also attend workshops and seminars on topics such as effective science communication, how to create a scientific poster presentation and how to write a journal article.

Students meet twice a month with an assigned Harlan advisor and another Harlan scholar to provide project updates and foster collaboration. At the end of the program, participants present their work at the annual Harlan Poster Session.

Whidbey Bissell

Whidbey Bissell

2018 Harlan Undergraduate Research Fellow

"It is incredible to work alongside graduate students and postdocs at such an early stage of my research career, as they have an endless wealth of knowledge to share."

Eligibility and Applications

The Wilbur V. Harlan Undergraduate Research Fellowship is available to undergraduate students who have completed their first, sophomore or junior year at GW and declared a biology major. Past students have chosen research topics in ecology, cellular and molecular biology, evolution and systematics and bioinformatics.


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Harlan Fellows at Work

Jose Hermina

Discovering a Medical Career in a Butterfly Lab

As a sophomore, Jose Hermina joined Assistant Professor of Biology Arnaud Martin’s lab to investigate wing patterns on Painted Lady butterflies. For the next two years, Hermina continued at the lab, using gene editing tool CRISPR to watch how genes affect shapes and colors on butterfly wings. He has since gone on to medical school and plans for a career studying gene therapy and disease treatment breakthroughs.

Past Winners and Projects




  • Lydia Burnett: Best Undergraduate Poster for Human amylin trafficking and toxicity in pancreatic β cells 
  • Zarafsha Uzzaman: Best Undergraduate Poster for Immunological difference between adult frogs and tadpoles 
  • Amulya Yaparla: Best Graduate Poster for Contribution of the peripheral liver and bone marrow to the myelopoiesis of the amphibian Xenopus laevis 
  • Daphne Koubourli: Best Undergraduate Poster for Functional Analysis of Two IL-8 Isoforms in the Amphibian Xenopus Iaveis
  • Jignasha Rana: Best Graduate Poster for Cryptic diversification in a species-rich Neotropical ant lineage 
  • Ana Ren: Best Undergraduate Poster for Extending the Wings of Wnt
  • Vincent Ficarrotta: Best Graduate Poster for Shedding Light on the Scale Dimorphism and Ultrastructures of Colias eurytheme
  • Reeham Motaher: Best Graduate Poster for Identification of a LIM Homeobox Transcription Factor as a Candidate Regulator of a Calcium Potassium in Caenorhabditis elegans