Making an Impact Through Research

Michael Hayes

Michael Hayes is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences. Born east of San Diego, his family moved to Sullivan, Missouri, before settling in Webster in 2007. Hayes is very passionate about his research and hopes it might contribute in solving environmental issues nationwide.

Hayes attended St. Louis Community College for three semesters before transferring to Webster University. He chose Webster because of the strong science program and his familiarity with the Webster Groves community.

Hayes received the Watts Scholarship, which has allowed him to visit different businesses in the St. Louis area, such as biotech companies.

“It's been really helpful because it's been a very good network. A lot of my friends here at Webster were and are part of the scholarship,” Hayes said.

Besides the Watts Scholarship, Hayes also received the USDA grant as part of a lab collaboration with professor Nicole Miller-Struttmann. His lab work involves looking at the effects of urbanization on community orchards and the way pollinators and plants interact. He is measuring the amount of pollen on each insect, the pollen loads that they carry and the pollen’s fertility. Hayes presented his findings at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) in Portland last summer and will likely present it again this summer.

His current senior thesis project also revolves around plants. He is attempting to genetically modify Arabidopsis, a small plant, commonly known as thale cress. He aims to accomplish this by injecting the subject with a heat-shock protein. With global warming and the way temperatures are rising, the goal of this research is to modify a plant to have more heat-shock proteins that safeguard against heat shock and heat stress. Having more heat-shock proteins could allow a plant to survive better in a warmer climate and possibly outmaneuver global warming.

“So what we're going to test is once we modify the plant, we're going to expose it to heat stress and heat shock, elevate temperature up to 42 degrees Celsius — really hot temperatures — and then see how that plant survives or how it deals with it compared to wild-type plants,” Hayes said.

Hayes' research may one day contribute in solving pollination problems in Missouri.

After graduating from Webster, Hayes has aspirations in furthering his education and earning a PhD. He is currently working on a Fulbright application in hopes of getting selected for the Fulbright Scholarship, which is a program that allows its recipients to be sent to another country’s institution for research, while completing their master’s program. He also has aspirations to start a family and become a professor once he is done with research.

“I definitely want to go into research for a couple of years. I'd like to start a family, as well. And then I think I want to eventually transition into a teaching role when I'm getting tired of doing research. It'd be fun to help the next generation learn things, as well as pass on what I know to more people than just my kids,” Hayes said.

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