Jeffrey J. Hayes, Ph.D., has been selected as chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. A faculty member for nearly two decades and the recently installed Shohei Koide Professor in Biochemistry and Biophysics, Hayes takes the reins after serving as interim chair since early 2012.
An accomplished and highly-respected scientist, Hayes’ research focuses on chromatin, the combination of DNA and proteins that comprise the nucleus of a cell. His lab works to understand how the DNA within chromatin is accessed for replication and repair and used in gene expression – the conversion of genetic information into proteins that make up the body and perform most life functions.
Though Hayes assumes the position at a challenging time for research, with decreased federal funding and fierce competition for resources, department faculty members believe he is the perfect person to help them weather the storm and emerge even stronger.
“Jeff is skilled at bringing people together for the common good and understands what it takes to create an environment that is conducive to great scientific research and education,” said Lynne E. Maquat, Ph.D., director of the Center for RNA Biology and the J. Lowell Orbison Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics. “He is organized, transparent and fair by nature and we are fortunate that he has agreed to take the helm.”
Eric M. Phizicky, Ph.D., dean’s professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, added, “I am delighted to have Jeff as chair. He has an even-handed leadership style and an exceptionally strong commitment to science, education and the continued success of the department.”
As chair, Hayes plans to grow the department’s recognized areas of excellence, including RNA biology – the study of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and its roles in the regulation and expression of genes – and computational biology – the use of computational methods to study the behavior of molecules and learn new things about the structure and function of biological systems. He also plans to improve the physical look of the department, updating the overall space and equipment to help recruit new faculty members and students.
The department plays a leading role in education at the Medical Center, running two of the three core courses that all graduate students must take. With a competitive National Institutes of Health Cellular, Biochemical and Molecular Science training grant, led by Maquat and Hayes, he says they are poised and ready to continue training the next generation of leading basic scientists.
“Jeff has all the characteristics needed to be an effective chair and was the clear choice to lead the department after an excellent term as interim chair,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “I am confident that he will take what is already an extremely strong scientific department to an even higher level of excellence.”
David H. Mathews, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, also described Hayes as a natural leader and a mentor who is aware of the challenges his faculty face and able to give good advice and make tough decisions.
“I am very fortunate to work with an outstanding and dedicated group of faculty and staff. I look forward to helping build a department that continues to break new ground in basic and disease-oriented research,” concluded Hayes.