Irving-Scholander Memorial Lecture Series

To provide lasting recognition of the scientific contributions of Laurence Irving and Per Scholander, the Irving-Scholander Memorial Fund supports the visit of an outstanding life scientist to the University of Alaska Fairbanks each year. The visitor presents a formal lecture and meets with faculty and students for informal discussions. The lectures and discussions are a fitting memorial to Drs. Irving and Scholander, who provided their colleagues with many stimulating ideas and seminal contributions to biological knowledge. The series began in 1981 and is sponsored by the Institute of Arctic Biology and Institute of Marine Science. It is supported by private donations to an endowment within the University of Alaska Foundation.

2020 Lecture


Name:Cheryl Hayashi
Curator/Professor and Director of Comparative Biology Research
American Museum of Natural History
Title:Secrets of spider webs
Date:Wednesday, 22 April 2020
Location:Murie Life Science Bldg, Murie Auditorium

Spiders are the superstars of the natural world when it comes to spinning silk. Spiders reign supreme in the diversity of silks they can spin and in the remarkable properties of their silks. For example, the extreme toughness of dragline silk rivals some of the best manmade materials, and other spider silks are remarkably stretchy. Furthermore, spiders never evolved wings, but can use silk to go air-borne and travel vast distances by ballooning through the atmosphere. Silk allows spiders to trap and subdue creatures that are many times their size, including elusive flying prey. Capable of remarkable feats, spiders and their web spinning abilities have been the inspiration for ancient legends, beloved children’s books, comics, and movies. Also, numerous television shows and news articles have promoted spider silk as the basis for novel, eco-friendly technologies. But what is really known about spider silk? In this seminar, I will share results from the latest discoveries about the mysteries of silk synthesis, which spiders have held secret for several hundred million years.

About the Speaker:

Cheryl Hayashi is a curator in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, a professor in the Richard Gilder Graduate School, the Leon Hess Director of Comparative Biology Research, and the Director of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. Dr. Hayashi is one of the world’s top experts on spider silks. Dr. Hayashi studies the characteristics of spider silks, as well as the relationship between spider genomes and their ability to make silks. Dr. Hayashi also investigates silks from other arthropods (such as caterpillars), non-fibrous proteins such as glues, and comparative analysis of spider silk biomechanics. Her findings, already advancing our understanding of the evolution of spiders and their silks, also have the potential to influence the development of biomimetic material for a variety of applications, from tissue scaffolds and medical devices to lightweight vehicle parts. Dr. Hayashi earned her B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wyoming and was on the faculty at the University of California, Riverside, prior to joining the American Museum of Natural History in 2017.