Thomas S. Hays

Born: December 20, 1954 | Winter Haven, FL, US

Thomas S. Hays was born in Winter Haven, Florida and attended the University of North Carolina. After graduation he spent three years as a technician in Bruce Niklas's lab at Duke University, where he became fascinated by mitosis. He was accepted into the PhD program at the University of North Carolina to work in Edward Salmon's lab, where he researched spindle poles and micotubules. He spent summers with Salmon at Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory. Soon, he decided to switch to genetics and took a postdoc with Margaret Fuller at the University of Colorado. He then accepted a job at the University of Minnesota. Now tenured, Hays continues to publish, write grants, teach, and ponder the place of science in society.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0433
No. of pages: 97
Minutes: 501

Interview Sessions

Steven J. Novak
19-20 and 21 August 1996
University of Minnesota at Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota

Abstract of Interview

Thomas S. Hays was born in Winter Haven, a citrus-growing area in central Florida. His father was a physical education teacher and then principal of an elementary school, his mother also a physical education teacher. He has one brother and three sisters. His father loved tennis and forced the children out to the courts every Saturday morning. Thomas was a competitive player on the state level all through high school; when he was in college he helped his father teach tennis. His parents wanted him to attend college not too far from home, so all his applications were to southern schools. He was accepted at University of North Carolina, but it was not until his junior year that he realized he wanted to be a scientist. He did an independent study with Albert Harris, from whom he learned a great deal about what science is. After graduation he immersed himself in science to prepare for graduate school; this he did by spending three years as a technician in Bruce Niklas's lab at Duke University, where he became fascinated by mitosis. He continued his research into spindle poles and microtubules when he was accepted into the PhD program at the University of North Carolina to work in Edward Salmon's lab. He spent summers with Salmon at Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory, where he met his future wife, Mary Porter. Toward the end of his graduate career he decided he needed to switch to a genetics approach, so he took a postdoc with Margaret Fuller at the University of Colorado in Boulder. His wife also found a postdoc there. Hays then began his genetics work in Drosophila, studying dinein and kinesin motors. His postdoc finished with great success, and he and his wife both accepted job offers at the University of Minnesota. Their careers have progressed well, both achieving tenure and being happy with their labs and their current research. They also have a young daughter who adds color and adventure to their lives. Hays continues to publish, to write grants, to teach, to ponder the place of science in society. He loves to design and implement experiments, and he loves to be with his family; balancing these two aspects of his life is an ongoing struggle.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1976 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill BS
1985 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill PhD

Professional Experience

University of Colorado, Boulder

1985 to 1989
Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Minnesota

1989 to 1995
Department of Genetics and Cell Biology, Assistant Professor
1995
Department of Genetics and Cell Biology, Associate Professor

Honors

Year(s) Award
1980

Founders Scholarship, Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory

1980

National Research Service Award

1991 to 1993

ACS Junior. Faculty Research Award

1991 to 1995

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

1993 to 1995

March of Dimes Basil O'Connor Scholar Award

1996 to 2016

American Heart Foundation Established Investigator Award

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Family background. Growing up in Winter Haven, Florida, near 100 lakes and canals. Saturday morning tennis. Uninspiring public schools. Religion. Measuring oxygen content of water in high school. Chemistry and biology teachers fun and enthusiastic.

College Years
12

Matriculates at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Intrigued by Buddhism. Teaching tennis with his father. During junior becomes interested in science. Independent study with Albert Harris; learning what doing research means. Decides to continue researching after graduation.

Technician Years
22

Works in Bruce Niklas's lab at Duke University for three years. Develops fascination with mitosis. Spindle poles, microtubules, and kinetochores.

Graduate School Years
29

Decides to go to graduate school. Enters Edward Salmon's lab at University of North Carolina. Continues work on mitosis. Importance of microscopy. Summers at Woods Hold Marine Biology Laboratory. Meets his future wife, Mary Porter. Politics among academics. Decides he needs to learn genetics.

Postdoc Years
53

Looking for places with two postdocs. Weighing reputation of labs against his interest in their projects. Accepts postdoc with Margaret Fuller at University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. Wife accepts postdoc with Susan Dutcher's lab. Learning. Drosophila. Noncomplementation and mitosis. Dynein and kinesinmotors. Help from wife and her lab.

Faculty Years
60

Difficulties of finding two jobs together. Accepting assistant professorships at University of Minnesota. Finishing postdoc with very successful experiment that led to excellent grant rating from National Institutes of Health. ß-galactosidase. Current research. Tenure.

General Thoughts
78

Lab management. Funding. Grant-writing. Teaching. Ethics. Place of science in society. Curriculum in colleges. Gender and ethnic issues. Balancing life with wife and daughter with life in the lab. His love for designing and implementing experiments.

Index
94

About the Interviewer

Steven J. Novak