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Shan Hays

Shan Hays

Professor of Biology


Ph.D., University of Oregon, Biology, 2001
B.A., University of Colorado Boulder, Biochemistry, 1994
B.A., University of Colorado Boulder, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, 1994


My roots in Colorado run back five generations and into the 19th century. I was raised on a farm/ranch in far eastern Colorado where I developed a keen interest in the natural world. I decided that the field of genetics has the best approach to understanding life, so I studied biology at CU-Boulder. I continued my studies in graduate school at the University of Oregon, where I was involved in some of the first studies to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the then-mysterious subject of epigenetics. I also married and our family grew by three as we moved from Oregon to Fresno, California and then to Gunnison. During this time, I discovered the joy of teaching others about the wonders of molecular biology, which led my wife and me to seek out a quality teaching university where we could work. Raising our kids in our native Colorado and near family while living in the the beautiful Gunnison country have been amazing experiences.

How did you discover Western?

I attended the Academic Decathlon state finals at Western when I was a high school student. Although I did not attend Western, I was intrigued by it and sought employment here after I got my Ph.D.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

Watching students blossom in college and then be successful post-graduation.

What most excites you about your field?

Advances in molecular biology and epigenetics are allowing us to better understand life at its most basic level. It is an amazing time to be a part of this field.

What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

The wonderful mix of people who live in the beautiful slice of heaven.

Courses Taught

  • Biochemistry I and II
  • Biological Principles (and Lab)
  • Cell Biology (and Lab)
  • Cell Biology Enhancement
  • Chromatin and DNA Repair
  • Chromosome Structures
  • Epigenetics
  • ​Epigenomics
  • Genes in Society
  • Genetics (and Lab)
  • Genome Analysis
  • Introduction to Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (and Lab)
  • Living Planet
  • Mechanisms of Aging
  • Meteorology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nature of Science
  • Organic Chemistry (and Lab)
  • Scientific Writing

Office Hours

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-10 a.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10-11 a.m.

Research Interests

Using genetic and biochemical techniques, we examine the role chromatin (the heterogenous complex of DNA, RNA, and proteins that make up chromosomes) plays in centromere formation and gene expression in the simple eukaryotic model organism Neurospora crassa. To determine its role in centromere formation, we delete a centromere and examine neocentromeres that subsequently form. To determine its role in gene expression, we correlate protein binding in a gene’s promoter with the gene’s expression level in different genetic backgrounds that are missing chromatin factors or have modified forms of those factors.

Some of my research students are also examining the dot chromosome of various species of Drosophila fruit flies as part of the Genomics Education Partnership. They generate high quality finished sequences from raw sequence data and they annotate genes and other features to facilitate an evolutionary approach to understand the atypical chromatin strucutres and gene expression patterns of the dot chromosome.


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