Meet the Research Team

Dr. Hartmut Doebel

Hartmut Doebel is the head of the beekeeping and research team.  Dr. Doebel started this four-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


Mehreen was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan – a festive city laden with history, architecture and art from the Mughal and Western, Victorian eras. Mehreen’s city and her parents have heavily influenced her personality and hobbies. From a very young age Mehreen was an avid theatre and museum go-er who enjoyed reading plays, painting and learning about different cultures. But she would also relish in flipping through animal encyclopedias, stargazing with her dad at night, horseback riding, watching documentaries on National Geographic and her favorite weekend excursions as a kid were trips to the local zoo.

Mehreen has combined her love for the sciences and the humanities in college, as a rising senior pursuing a Bachelors of Science degree in Biological Sciences and English. Mehreen got interested in learning about honeybees after teaching an undergraduate honeybee lab as a UGTA for Prof. Doebel’s Intro Biology class. Mehreen started her journey in the bee lab as a junior beekeeper and pesticide researcher last year and since then Mehreen is now the senior beekeeper and co-leads the Pesticide team with Michael Stover. As the senior beekeeper Mehreen manages the rooftop apiary at GWU. Her responsibilities include weekly/bi-weekly hive inspections, expansions, controlling Varroa mite population and harvesting honey. Pertaining to research, Mehreen and her teammates focus on the neuro-ethology of honeybees – concentrating on how certain pesticides (like neonicotinoids) and herbicides affect honeybee associative memory and learning. Her research aims at finding a link between the detrimental effects of industrial chemicals and “Colony Collapse Disorder.”

Audra Fain

Audra is a sophomore at GW,  majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Biology. She grew up in Seattle, Washington and spent much of childhood camping, backpacking and learning about the outdoors. She first became interested in bees as a kid because her uncle had hives and would let her put on a mini bee suit and look at them. Not only did it feel like dress-up, but then she got to taste different types of honey all afternoon – and has since then developed a sweet tooth! Audra began working in the bee lab during her sophomore year with the Immune team, and is excited to continue learning and extending her research!

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, with a minor in Biological Anthropology. Gabrielle currently maintains the GW Buzz website, and also helps the senior beekeeper, as well as researchers on their current projects.


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.

Justin Butera


Justin is a rising junior from Ashburn, VA. He is majoring in Biology at GW. Even as a child he was interested in animals and nature. He became interested in bee research because it involves working closely with the bees. He is studying bee immune systems and hopes to learn more about how they work and if pesticides negatively affect the bees’ immune system’s ability to fight off infection.



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!


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.

Past Researchers:

Priyanka Koti, 3D Printing Team, Summer 2015


Kaleabe Abebe, Pesticide Team Summer 2015


Gerry Quinnan, 3D Printing Team Summer 2015


Dennis Khodasevich, Venom Team Summer 2015

Carly Sherman, Pesticide Team Summer 2015


Victoria Doheny, Sound Team Summer 2015

Roma Patel, Sound Team Summer 2015

Abigail Thorpe, Sound Team Summer 2015

Liam Douglass, Junior Beekeeper 2015

Elizabeth Young, Immune Team Summer 2015


Ryan Gunnison, Pesticide Team Summers 2014 & 2015


Anaïs Di Via Ioschpe, Venom Team Summer 2015


Amber McLeod, 2014-2015

Hannah Cox


Kyle Kurland

Brooke Talbot


Saveena Veeramoothoo

Ricky Zhu


Katherine Berry, 2012-2014


Yana Melnikova, 2011-2013

Max Kollmer, 2012-2013


Esther Schenau, Summer 2013


8 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!

  5. Hello, my name is a David Garcia. I am registered beekeeper with the State of Florida. I just moved to DC in August to start law school at Georgetown (Sorry!!!). I am looking to start a couple hives in March. I was wondering if you guys could maybe provide me with info about finding roof space for rent (or if i could maybe put hives on your roof?). Also, any leads about where to buy used equipment would be great, do you guys have any old disease free equipment to sell. Back in Florida I ran a live bee removal business, I was removing about 7-8 hives a week, that was the stock I used and bred. I was hoping to do the same here and as I am sure you know, used wood lowers the rate of absconding for new hives.

    Any help you could provide would be great, thanks,
    David Garcia

    • Hi David,
      So here are a couple of links that might help you out –

      1) As per the green rooftop space for you to put your hives – GWU cannot rent out their building spaces to individuals not affiliated with the university or a specific department. (For e.g. our hives are on the roof of the Biology Department at GWU).
      But check out this company called “Up Top Acres” which is a rooftop farming company. Article website:
      Their website:
      Perhaps you could partner up with urban rooftop farming ventures like Up Top Acres because in doing so maybe they could give you reduced rent, etc.

      2) Regarding the equipment: We get all of our equipment from either Amazon, MannLake or Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. So you could try those out!

      Hope this helps. Kudos to you for embarking on your endeavor to start hives in March!! Good luck!!!

      – GWBuzz team

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