Semper fidelis: Former Marine takes biomedical sciences by storm


Above: Biomedical sciences student Josh Hayes, above left, former president of CSU’s Student Veteran Organization, is pictured with Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America, and Oren Pierce, current president of the CSU chapter.

Josh Hayes is among hundreds of military veterans attending Colorado State University, but he’s the only former Marine graduating in the rigorous biomedical sciences program with plans to become a physiology professor – inspired, in part, by a high-school science teacher who wore Led Zeppelin patches on his lab coat.

“I got to do a lot of teaching in the Marine Corps and was also able to gain more maturity and perspective on my life,” said Hayes, 25, who grew up for a time in the Pacific Northwest and attended high school in Colorado Springs.

After high school, Hayes enlisted in the Marine Corps and served for two years in Okinawa, Japan, as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist, a role he gravitated toward because of its biological aspects. He then served for two years as a hazardous materials instructor in San Diego, with his final year of active duty focused on course design and teaching.


More than 2,000 students will graduate from Colorado State University during fall 2016 commencement  Dec. 16-18. Students in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will earn bachelor’s degrees in four undergraduate majors: biomedical sciences, environmental health, microbiology and neuroscience. Meet one of our great grads!

When Hayes enrolled at CSU in 2013, he was drawn to science – having been immersed in it as a Marine – and was interested in teaching. He found his fit in CSU’s demanding biomedical sciences undergraduate program.

While earning his degree, Hayes worked as a physiology teaching assistant under the guidance of John Walrond, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Hayes, who wants to become a physiology professor, works in the research laboratory of Dr. Susan Tsunoda.

“Being a physiology teaching assistant has been the best part of my undergraduate experience,” Hayes said. “Dr. Walrond has been a great mentor and has had a huge influence on me. I really admire his teaching style.”

Hayes said he loves teaching fellow students about how things work and helping those who struggle find effective ways to learn. He’s also been committed to the veteran community on and off campus and is passionate about helping discharged veterans transition into civilian lives.

As an undergraduate, Hayes has been active in CSU’s Student Veteran Organization, serving as 2015-16 president. He received the Adult Learner and Veteran Services Outstanding Student Veteran of the Year award for 2015-16 – a reflection of his role in CSU’s rising reputation as one of the nation’s best universities for military veterans. About 2,000 student-veterans, military family members and active-duty service members attend CSU.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences, Hayes will enter CSU’s graduate program in toxicology, based in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. His goal is to become a physiology professor.

“Josh is an outstanding student who demonstrates an extraordinary ability to show compassion while maintaining discipline and control,” Walrond said. “In the Marine Corps, flexible approaches to pedagogy are less necessary than in a typical undergraduate setting. Josh quickly adapted to become an exceptional classroom instructor.”

Hayes said he was first inspired to teach science during a high-school anatomy and physiology course. His teacher, a rock ‘n’ roll scientist, wore a lab coat covered with Led Zeppelin and Bon Jovi patches and had a knack for engaging students and getting them excited about learning. Hayes likewise aimed for engagement as he refined his own style during his undergraduate teaching experience.

“I’m very energetic, and like to keep my classes jocular,” he said. “I find that students learn best and retain more information in a relaxed environment.”

Student-veterans will find CSU resources on this website.

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