Meet the Research Team

Dr. Hartmut Doebel

Professor Doebel is the head of the beekeeping and research team.  Hartmut Doebel started this three-year-old program with a passion for honeybees and beekeeping, which he had learned as a college student in his native Germany.  By partnering with local restaurant Founding Farmers, he was able to dive into further research with a focus on honeybee behavior and how diseases and pesticides affect normal bee behavior.  What started as an anchor to get students excited about biology turned into a growing research program to further the knowledge about these widespread and important pollinators.

When Professor Doebel is not working on honeybees and his bee team, he focuses on his research in teaching and learning as well as how to implement active learning techniques into his courses.

Ph.D., University of Maryland, 1996.

Senior Beekeeper: Mehreen Arif

Junior Beekeeper: Liam Douglass

Liam is currently studying Computer Science at GWU as a member of the class of 2018. Not only is he the Junior Beekeeper at our apiary, but he is also heading the queen rearing project, as well as completing research on the effects of pesticides on sperm motility. Liam hails from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where he first began beekeeping in the small apiary that his mom kept in their yard.

Abigail Thorpe

Abbey is from Middletown, New Jersey, which for reference is about 5 minutes from the ocean and 20 minutes from where Bruce Springsteen grew up.  She is going into her junior year as a biomedical engineering major with a specific interest in genetics and computer science.  As a member of the sound team, Abbey is studying how audio can be used to monitor bee hives and improve beekeeping.

Anaïs Di Via Ioschpe

Anaïs was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but has spent the last 6 years studying in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She is the daughter of a Brazilian father and an Italian mother, and is pursuing an education in Medicine and a major in Psychology with a concentration in Cognitive Neuroscience. She is currently the PI of a summer research project on the medicinal properties of the protein melittin found in bee venom of the species Apis melifera. This is her first year as an undergraduate researcher, yet she is eager to continue her studies in the years that she attends The George Washington University.

Carly Sherman

Carly is a rising senior, majoring in Psychology and is on the pre-medical track.  She was born in Upstate New York.  In the lab, Carly is part of the Pesticides Team studying the effects of pesticides and herbicides on honeybees. When asked why she is interested in bee research, her response is simply “bee-cause”. Rather, she is interested in research focused on the prevention and understanding of the widespread phenomenon that is “Colony Collapse Disorder.”

Dennis Khodasevich

Dennis is a rising junior, majoring in Biology and minoring in Anthropology.  He was born and raised all around New York.  In the lab, Dennis is part of the Venom Team studying the medicinal properties of melittin.  He has always been interested in the interaction between humans and other animals, so completing research in the Bee Lab is a perfect fit for him.

Elizabeth Young

Elizabeth is a rising junior studying Biology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This summer Elizabeth is studying the bees’ immune system with McKenzie and Jonah. ​Elizabeth grew up near Cleveland, Ohio and has always had a love of nature. She is fond of reading great adventures in books as well as having her own adventures while exploring the Metroparks around her home. She remembers gazing at pollen-dusted honey bees hovering around a lavender bush in her grandparents’ garden as a young child, and now as a young adult she is thrilled to learn more about these indispensable pollinators.

Gabrielle Discafani

Gabrielle has been interested in bees and their plight since having to write a poem about them in middle school, when CCD became a popular topic in the media. She is from a small town in New Jersey, and came to GW to satiate her inquiries about a plethora of interests, including honey bees! She is currently pursuing a major in Classical Studies, and probably in Biological Anthropology, with a potential minor in Linguistics, although she is still figuring out the details. Gabrielle currently maintains the GW Buzz website, and also helps researchers on their current projects.

Gerry Quinnan

Gerry grew up just outside of DC in Rockville, Maryland. He is a rising junior studying Biology at The George Washington University. He was first exposed to bees through his grandfather, who kept a hive in his backyard as a hobby. Gerry is involved in the 3D printing and Varroa Mite rearing research teams. His passion for bee research stems from a deep concern for the stability of our precarious ecosystem as it is continually threatened by human interference.

Jonah Heller

Jonah grew up in Oakland, California, and attended boarding school in western Massachusetts. His hobbies include reading, listening to music, and petting any dogs within arm’s reach. At the lab, Jonah is a part of the immune team; currently he is focused on research involving antimicrobial secretions on bee’s skin. Jonah is studying towards a BS in Biology, and hopes to pursue a career in research.

Kaleabe Abebe

Kaleabe is born and raised in Washington D.C and currently resides here. He became interested in bees while discussing with a friend in his freshmen year dorm about the essentiality of the honey bee. After the debate, he decided to become more involved in the subject, in general and on campus.

Kaleabe is working on his Bachelors of Arts in Mathematics and minor in biology at GW. He is fascinated with applying mathematics to Biology, and aspires to attend dental school. The project he is currently focusing on involves understanding the effects of an herbicide on the honey bee’s decision making.

Mannat Sawhney

Mannat is a rising sophomore studying Biology at GWU, and would like to pursue a career in dermatology. She was born in India, but raised in New Jersey and Delaware. Currently, Mannat is part of the second queen rearing team, whose project and goal is to increase sperm viability of queen bees so that we can create healthier hives. This is her first year as an undergraduate researcher, and is thrilled to gain more knowledge about honey bees this summer.

McKenzie Gray

McKenzie is a junior majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Biology. Growing up in a small town on the coast of Maine, she has always had an appreciation for nature and an active lifestyle. She enjoys doing anything that involves being outside in the fresh air, and she loves to travel. McKenzie became interested in learning more about honey bees after a lab dedicated to them in her intro biology class during her freshman year at GW. She then began working in the Bee Lab in her sophomore year on a team of students studying the immune system of the bee, which she will continue to study. She has learned so much while working in the bee lab, and continues to be surprised by how complex such tiny creatures can be.

Michael Stover

From hiking up waterfalls in Yosemite, California, to horseback riding across New Mexico, since a young age Michael has always enjoyed spending his free time in the outdoors across the country.   This led to him becoming an animal lover, a facet that was only compounded by snuggling with his two dogs and cats.  This love led him to study various sciences, such as Biology, which eventually catalyzed his work as an undergraduate researcher in the GWU Honeybee lab.

As a rising senior at GW, Michael is currently working on his Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry with a minor in Biology at GW.  Michael leads a team of undergraduate students in research focused on the prevention and understanding of the widespread phenomenon “Colony Collapse Disorder.”  He and his teammates focus their research on various projects related to pesticides and herbicides.  Specifically, his research attempts to answer questions about how pesticides impact honeybee cognition and behavior.

Michelle Ahn

Michelle is a sophomore majoring in Biology with a minor in Human Anatomy. Since 3rd grade, she has lived in Clifton, VA, a quiet town surrounded by trees and wildlife. Not only does she garden with her grandparents, but she is also a member of her community’s bee-safe neighborhood. Since she came to GWU, her curiosity for honeybees grew, leading her to become an undergraduate researcher. Currently, she is working on the Bee Venom team, which focuses on the medicinal effects of melittin, a peptide within the honeybees’ venom.

Nico Deflorio

Nico grew up in a town right outside Boston, Massachusetts and before coming to GW had never been to DC.  Nevertheless, having spent a year in DC and become acclimated to the city and Foggy Bottom area, he now loves the city and all it has to offer!  As a student, Nico is studying Biology with aspirations of pursuing a career in medicine.  Nico is currently on the Queen Team and is testing the affect of low to mid-levels of pesticides on queen pheromone activity, particularly the size of the queens retinue!

Priyanka Koti

Priyanka, from Easton, Pennsylvania, is a sophomore at GW. She is majoring in Biomedical Engineering, and is particularly interested in the merge between biology and engineering—how advents like 3D printing can alter the behaviors and tendencies of honeybees. Priyanka is currently working on the 3D printing team to produce cells and frames that both facilitate the production of wax combs, and allow us to observe honeybees in an entirely new way. In addition to this project, she hopes to gain skills in beekeeping and learn more about the efforts to save the bees.

Roma Patel

Roma is from Jamestown, Rhode Island, and is double majoring in Systems Engineering and Computer Science. She is a rising sophomore and is a part of the Bee Sound Team. Their research focuses on programming to detect and analyze frequencies emitted by bees to distinguish between a healthy or diseased beehive. Roma is interested in this project because her team is continuously learning new programming languages and are being challenged to create new codes. Not only that, but hopefully this team can accomplish their goal so that we can ensure the bees are always safe, since they are invaluable to our environment and our every day lives.

Ryan Gunnison

Ryan is a life long resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, just north of D.C.. Insects were always an interest from an early age, as he went out into the field with a neighbor to search for specific species of moths at night. Ryan is a rising Junior in high school and would like to become an Entomologist. He worked on the Pesticide Team last year, and would like to continue with the different study of herbicides.

Shalini Amrit Sudama

Shalini is originally from Providence, Rhode Island. She loves the beach, the city and every activity that they could possibly encompass since she’s always had the best of both worlds back home. Shalini cares deeply (almost too much) about all animals and insects and has always done whatever she can to be involved with them. When she heard about Professor Doebel’s bee research, her interest was immediately sparked as she’s also had a slight fear of bees in the past and wanted to conquer it as soon as possible! Shalini has now grown to love them and will do whatever it takes to protect them. Shalini is currently a rising sophomore and aspires to be an emergency medicine physician someday. She is presently a Biology major with a possible minor in English or human anatomy. She is a member of one of the two queen rearing teams, whose research project involves the investigation of greater protein/antioxidant concentrations within both drone and queen bee diets’ to aid in the overall sperm viability and motility of the queen bee. The end goal is to determine why queen bees no longer have the lifespan they once did and consequently, inquire about other possible causes for colony collapse disorder (CCD). Some of the methods her team will be using are sperm collection, artificial insemination, and classical conditioning. We predict that this will be a two year project and expect to obtain more specific data results next summer (Summer ’16).

Tara McCloskey

Tara grew up in the small town of Madison, CT. She spent most of her childhood pursuing art, music and theatre until she found an unexpected passion for biology. Tara enjoys working with the anatomy and behavior of honeybees and hopes to merge her creative element with her interest for honeybees in the lab. As an rising sophomore at GWU, Tara is currently Undeclared in terms of a major, but is in the process in the process of choosing between six different majors or minors, including Biology, Biological Anthropology, Public Health, Women’s Studies, Systems Engineering, and Business. Currently she is working with rearing queen bees and sperm extraction in haploid drone honeybees. Her research aims to focus on motility of sperm in queen bees and the adverse effect of pesticides on queen honeybee pheromone secretions. She aims to draw a connection between her research and Colony Collapse Disorder.

Victoria Doheny

Victoria was originally born in Russia, however, moved to the United States at the age of 8 and grew up in New York. She is a rising sophomore currently studying biomedical engineering. She has always had an interest in biology and environmental studies. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors and going on hikes. Naturally, when she found the opportunity to work with bees she immediately took it. Victoria is currently on the Sound Team with Roma Patel and Abigail Thorpe. She and her teammates are working on programing different devices to record the sound frequencies of bees, to detect diseased hives at their earliest stages. She hopes that their research will help save hives and bring more insight into preventing Colony Collapse Disorder.

Past Researchers:


Hannah Cox

Hannah was born in Virginia and raised in Vancouver British Columbia.  She grew up active in nature, and found a love for animals large and small.  She gained an early love of science from her father, and it has only grown.

She began beekeeping at GW in fall of 2013, her sophomore year, and quickly grew to love it.  She intends to major in Biology with a minor in Health and Wellness, and has future aspirations of practicing veterinary medicine. She is also on the GW Women’s Water Polo team

Kyle Kurland

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, Kyle has always loved wildlife.  His love of nature led him to the sciences, and sparked his interest in biology.  He loves that working with the bees allows him to reconnect with nature, even in the heart of DC.

Kyle is working toward earning a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Philosophy, and plans on attending medical school upon graduation from GW.  His research currently entails the development of cell culturing techniques for honeybee cells.  The original cells are obtained from larvae, and are incubated in the lab to promote continual cellular reproduction.  The ultimate goal of Kyle’s research is microbial testing of these cells to see how they respond to and are affected by different bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.  This would be especially useful for Wolbachia, a genus of bacteria which can only grow and reproduce within living cells.  This information would be exceptionally useful in identifying cellular and immunological responses in honeybees, and would help to understand the bees’ overall response to many pathogens.


Brooke Talbot

Brooke grew up bouncing around the country with her rather large family, but currently lives in Newtown, Connecticut. Nevertheless, she has always lived  in her heart in the woods, hiking and tree climbing and getting dirty. Her home nickname is “Bee,” her favorite piece of orchestral music is Flight of the Bumblebee, she’s a honey fanatic, and now it seems only appropriate that she should finally be setting to work with bees and fully appreciate the lessons they have to teach us.

Brooke is working on her Bachelors of Science in Biology and a minor in Public Health at GW. She is fascinated by microbiology and by how foreign and familiar other organisms can be to humans. Her interest in health draws inspiration from nature, and vice versa. The project she is focusing on involves tracking the behavior of Varroa mite, a common pest for honey bees, with the bees to see how mites affect the overall health of the colony. She is also working on tracking the transmission of viruses in a colony which can consequences like Colony Collapse Disorder and a reduction in honey production. Essentially, she would like to be the “bee doctor” in the lab. She will also be taking on the role of bee keeper in addition to her project.

Saveena Veeramoothoo

Growing up in Mauritius, Saveena already knew that she deeply interested in the sciences. She first came into contact with honeybees after taking an introductory biology class with Dr. Doebel. The bees instantly fascinated her.

When the time came to do research for her physics major, she knew that she must do a project involving the bees. Saveena’s research comprises studying the sounds emitted by the bees. Her research is founded on the basis that the bees emit different sounds when healthy as compared to when they are about to suffer from Colony Collapse. Thus, Saveena’s project aims at determining when a Colony Collapse is about to happen based on the sounds they emit. This research will help warn beekeepers of incoming Colony Collapse, which would give them time to take any possible precautionary measures available.

Ricky Zhu

Born in Washington, DC and bred in Vienna, Virginia, I was one of those nerdy kids who loved bringing mealworms home from elementary school and religiously studied that brown-covered Campbell’s 7th ed. of Biology in high school. Thinking that research was mundane and repetitive, I never thought about entering research until I performed protein assays, electrophoresis, and Western Blots in Biology of Proteins as part of the Scholars in Quantitative and Natural Sciences Program. Having worked in construction with my father since middle school, I wanted to improve my manual dexterity and challenge my fear of bees by learning to beekeep with Doebel’s help, YouTube videos, and beekeeping books. I’m happy to have shared my knowledge with and passed the apiary over to Brooke Talbot as I shifted gears from beekeeping to research.

My research encompasses both insect ethology and conservation biology as well as neuroethology and centers on investigations of various commercial and technical-grade neonicotinoid pesticides and herbicides on the sensory perceptions, specifically the coupling of olfactory sense and optical perception, of foragers of the European honeybee Apis mellifera in laboratory and field conditions. With substantial annual loss of honeybee hives worldwide due to CCD, an advanced understanding of the impact of pesticides on honeybee health is needed to shape the practice of beekeeping. Further research direction will focus on foraging success as a factor of waggle dance communication, pollen collection, drone sperm count, queen rearing, and comparison of immune systems between wild-type vs domesticated honeybees.

I am proud to have created the Undergraduate Research Mentored Summer Internship this summer of 2014 to introduce undergraduate Biology majors and minors to honeybee research techniques and concepts, its understated collaboration with beekeeping, and a unique team-based research experience. This summer’s recipients are Mehreen Arif, Ryan Gunnison, Kelvin Lim, and Michael Stover. I also owe special thanks to past researcher Max Kollmer, research assistant Keon Lum, and students from School Without Walls for their contribution.

I currently pursue a major in Biology and minor in Chemistry at GWU, aspire to attend Dental School, and hope to keep bees after academia.

Katherine Berry, 2012-2014

Yana Melnikova, 2011-2013

Max Kollmer, 2012-2013


Esther Schenau, Summer 2013

6 responses to “Meet the Research Team

  1. Pingback: Városi méhtartás = menő | MaciHadsereg·

  2. Pingback: BrightestYoungThings – DC – Video of the Week: Urban Beekeeping, That’s A Thing.·

  3. Does your lab also research native Native Apoidea or the sustainable pollination/native-based pollination paradigms?

    My name is Nick Stewart, & I’ve been conducting a large scale assessment of native pollination services for entomophilous agriculture and a bio-Inventory of native bees for the last four years in North Georgia apple orchards. Am interested in a graduate program/lab PI which I could pursue my phd under in the Baltimore-DC-VA area – any suggestions beyond Dr Inouye (University of MD) or Dr Roulston (University of VA)?

    Nick Stewart

    • Mr. Stewart,

      As of right now The George Washington University does not have a program like that available but we are in the process of creating one. There are many other available opportunities at GW, so I would look into our school. Good luck in your future endeavors.


    • 5/29/14
      I am w/the West Georgia Native Plant Society in Carrollton, GA, and would like to extend an invitation for you to participate in our Fall Workshop to be held on September 20, 2014, if you would be available.
      Please contact me asap @ 770-363-7410.
      Thanking you.
      Kathy Baker

  4. Hello!

    I am a Public History graduate student at AU and I am working in a group charged with creating a pop up exhibit for the Smithsonian Gardens that focuses on the history of honey bees and their importance as pollinators. My group and I were wondering if we could talk with some of your researchers?

    Thank you in advance for any help you may be able to provide!

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