UC Riverside

Cheryl Hayashi

Cheryl Hayashi and spider friend

Thinner than Hair, Stronger than Steel

It's one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. Ounce-for-ounce it is five-times stronger than steel. And it is sought by industry for use in things ranging from body armor to rope, to biodegradable post-surgery stitches to high-tech athletic gear. It’s spider silk, and UCR is home to one of the world’s foremost experts.

Hayashi Receives “Genius Award” from MacArthur Foundation

Cheryl Hayashi, an associate professor of biology at UCR, is a national expert on the genetic structure of spider silk, the material spiders produce to move, trap and store food, and to reproduce.

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Dr. Hayashi is interested in spider silks across many levels of biological integration.

With properties like that, spider silks have drawn the attention of industry. They are being studied for use in everything from body armor to rope, from biodegradable post-surgery stitches to high-tech athletic gear.

Hayashi has led extensive mechanical testing of silk fibers from different spider species. Hayashi has made important discoveries in the laboratory, including that spider silks are created not just by spinning, but also by protein structures that have evolved over millions of years.

Hayashi’s work has been recognized with a $500,000 fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. A MacArthur Fellowship is one of the most prestigious awards in the country and is awarded to only 24 scholars each year.

The fellowships recognize individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and who show promise to make advances in the future, especially in cases where the fellowship could help facilitate new discoveries. Hayashi has said she intends to use some of the money to finance expeditions to areas around the world where significant spider silk work remains to be done.

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