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Cheryl Hayashi Makes History

UCR Biologist Discusses Spider Silk, a Substance Stronger Than Steel, on History Channel

Cheryl Hayashi explains the value of spider silk on show to air today

(October 18, 2006)

Cheryl Hayashi is an associate professor of biology at UC Riverside.

Cheryl Hayashi is an associate professor of biology at UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — UC Riverside's Cheryl Hayashi, an associate professor of biology who researches spider silk, will be featured in the program “Modern Marvels: World’s Strongest” on the History Channel, 10 p.m. today.

The episode explores not only how strength of materials is measured but also what makes a substance extremely strong. Viewers tuned in to the show can learn about the strongest tractor in the world as well as the strongest rope, tugboat, plastic and natural mineral on Earth.

The episode will discuss, too, what some scientists believe is the future of rope: spider silk, which is thinner than a human hair but several times stronger than steel. The episode will show how scientists gather silk from a live spider and learn about its secret properties.

"Collectively, spider silks are some of the toughest natural fibers known," said Hayashi, who joined UCR in 2001. "Imagine a fabric made from such a substance? It would be incredibly strong, flexible and ultimately, biodegradable."

Spiders use silk to move, trap and store food, and to reproduce. Spider silks, which are among the most diverse of animal structural proteins, recently have begun to be considered in the improvement of a wide variety of products such as super-strong body armor, specialty rope, and surgical microsutures.

For more than a decade, Hayashi has been performing the molecular and mechanical characterization of spider silks. Her laboratory does extensive mechanical testing of silk fibers from different spider species to relate silk protein motifs to material properties.

Since satellite carriers could air the program at 7 p.m. today, people are encouraged to check their local listings for “Modern Marvels: World’s Strongest” on the History Channel.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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