Passing of Dr. Michael E. Hughes

Michael E. Hughes, PhD

Dear colleagues,

We are deeply saddened to report the passing of Dr. Michael E. Hughes on May 4, 2021 after a prolonged illness from brain cancer. Dr. Hughes was a world-class scientist who made seminal contributions to the understanding of how time and time-related genes (the so-called biological clock) can impact health and disease. Dr. Hughes trained at Harvard Medical School where he obtained his PhD in neuroscience and genetics and then at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University for postdoctoral training in genomics and biostatistics. Based on his teaching and mentoring interests, he started his first research laboratory at the University of Missouri in St. Louis before being recruited to Washington University School of Medicine. He joined the Department of Medicine as a member of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in 2017 as part of a mission to understand circadian rhythms in normal and disease conditions. A leader in circadian genomics research, he quickly established a successful portfolio of research, mentoring, and collaborative activities to continue exciting cutting-edge work. He led efforts to establish standards for data collection, analysis and sharing in circadian biology and medicine. His reputation as an extraordinary and beloved teacher also quickly translated into a mentorship role for a highly talented group of trainees in his lab and throughout the scientific community. He helped lead the innovative Clocks Club at Washington University. He also took a leadership role in a series of multi-institutional research initiatives, including the identification of circadian harmonics, transcriptional profiling using his widely used algorithm known as JTK_Cycle, and remarkably innovative studies of skeletal muscle biology and function in aging and chronic disease. Those who knew him were dazzled by his capacity for outstanding work while still devoting himself to family and meanwhile battling a devastating illness with fearless and frank resolve. His eloquent writing on cancer survivorship and deep humanism were remarkably insightful, candid, and inspiring to those who know this world. This work along with his extraordinary acumen, wit, insight, and outright verve will all be deeply missed by our local academic community and far beyond.

Michael is survived by his wife, Dr. Jing Hughes of the Division of Endocrinology at Washington University School of Medicine, daughters Sophie (12), Quinn (9), and Carolyn (6), parents Nancy and Richard, and sister Laura. A celebration of life is planned for Saturday, May 8, 2021, from 4-8pm at Kriegshauser Mortuary, 9450 Olive Blvd., Olivette, MO. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Hughes Children Education Fund at First Community Credit Union, 17151 Chesterfield Airport Road, Chesterfield, MO 63005, account # 920585293, or by direct donation to Michael’s wife, Jing.

Please keep Dr. Jing Hughes and her family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.