Michael Evan Hughes, a neuroscientist and chronobiologist highly respected for his research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died Tuesday, May 4, 2021, at his home in St. Louis after a six-year battle with brain cancer. He was 41.
An assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Hughes was married to Jing Hughes, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the university’s Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Lipid Research. Together, they had three daughters: Sophie, 12; Quinn, 9; and Carolyn, 6.
“Michael was a smart and creative scientist, as well as a terrific teacher and mentor, both at Washington University and in the larger scientific community,” said Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and head of the Department of Medicine. “He was an absolute joy to be around. We will all miss him deeply.”
Hughes opened a lab at the School of Medicine in 2017 and became an expert in circadian genomics, stemming from his research on the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle during healthy and diseased conditions.
He spearheaded efforts to establish standards for data collection, analysis and sharing in circadian biology and medicine. He collaborated with scientists nationwide on initiatives that included respected studies of skeletal muscle biology and function in aging and chronic disease. He helped develop JTK Cycle, a widely used algorithm that collects large-scale genomic data on biological rhythms. Hughes also helped lead the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders Clocks & Sleep Club, which promotes research on biological cycles and sleep in neurodegenerative diseases.
Jing called her husband an “accidental scientist.” He started as a political science major while they were undergraduates at Stanford University during the late 1990s and early 2000s. “That is, until he decided to court a premed student — me — and switched his major to biology to impress her,” she said. “He never looked back, and I’m still impressed by him.”
In addition to his wife and daughters, Hughes is survived by his parents, Nancy and Richard Hughes; and his sister, Laura Hughes.
A public celebration of life will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 8, at Kriegshauser Mortuary-West Chapel, 9450 Olive Blvd., Olivette, Mo. Rolling attendance will be limited to 50 people at a time. Interment will be at a private ceremony in Overland Park, Kan.
Memorial contributions may be made in care of Jing Hughes to the Hughes Children Education Fund at First Community Credit Union.
Read the full obituary on the School of Medicine site.