Dr. Kanako Hayashi is an Associate Professor and Associate Director for the Center for Reproductive Biology at Washington State University. She sat down (virtually) with Laura Schulz to share her career experiences, her thoughts on practicing science in a pandemic, and advice for SSR trainees.
My lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms of gynecological diseases (mainly endometriosis) and reproductive toxicology (male and female gonads), as well as developing novel therapeutic strategies that are more effective than those currently employed by the medical community. Endometriosis: Due to the low efficacy and numerous unwanted side effects of current treatment options, new therapeutic targets and efficient drugs need to be identified. We are currently investigating immune dysfunction in the initiation, establishment and progression of the disease, as well as developing new innovative therapies to improve health outcomes of patients with endometriosis through inhibition of inflammatory mechanisms. Reproductive Toxicology: BPA’s structurally similar analogs have been used as BPA substitutes and labeled products as BPA-free. However, they elicit reproductive defects like BPA. We are currently working to identify altered genome-wide chromatin accessibility and transcriptomes at single-cell resolution in germ cells caused by BPA and BPS.
What is your current position and what does it entail?
I am currently an Associate Professor and Associate Director for the Center for Reproductive Biology (CRB) at Washington State University. I am involved in the development of the core CRB mission to provide opportunities for elevating the research enterprise and fostering collaborations amongst members from across the Pacific Northwest.
Can you talk a little bit about yourself, where are you from? What first attracted you to the world of science? And how did you get to be in your current position?
I am originally from Japan. I did not know much about reproductive biology or scientific research until I joined my eventual PhD mentor’s lab (Dr. Miyamoto) during my junior year. So, I definitely appreciate the introduction to the field of research he provided. During my graduate training, he took several grad students to Germany to perform collaborative studies. We stayed for less than one year but were able to complete several projects in Germany. This experience led me to further explore the research world. Subsequently, I became a postdoc in the labs of Drs. Bazer and Spencer at Texas A&M University. After that, I established my independent lab at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. In 2020, I moved to my current position at Washington State University.
What impact has the pandemic had on your daily activities and your research?
We could continue doing some lab work at both SIU-SOM and WSU. Fortunately, we did not have to terminate long-running animal studies. However, it was difficult to hire staff, obtain lab supplies and equipment, maintain administrative activities etc. It was not certain if I could make the transition between universities, moving lab and home during the pandemic while following COVID protocols, but it all came together in the end.
Have you gained any valuable lessons from life during the pandemic?
What are you most excited to do over the next year?
I hope all meetings, conferences, symposiums and even seminars will be normal so that we can meet with people face-to-face!
What words of inspiration would you like to share with the future generation of scientists?
Work hard and have fun!