Dr. Hay and Kelan Fogarty work in the glove box.

Dr. Michael Hay: Good chemistry

Professor says Penn State's 2+2 plan is beneficial for students because it allows them to get to know faculty and seek help when they need it.

When he was growing up, Dr. Michael Hay, associate professor of chemistry, wanted to be the first man on Mars.

Though he never made it to outer space, he did go into the family business. “My mom and dad were teachers. Both of my sisters are teachers,” he said. “I used to say, ‘I’ll never be a teacher.’ But here I am.”

So what changed Hay’s mind?

For his undergraduate degree, Hay majored in chemistry. He decided to go to graduate school, but four years into the program, he quit.

“If you don’t have a vision of what you want to do, it’s easier to quit. That’s what happened to me,” Hay said. “I started to do some soul searching.”

When he was in his mid-20s, Hay came to the conclusion that he wanted to teach. After all the years of saying he never wanted to be a teacher, he realized that’s exactly what he wanted to do.

So, what brought him to Penn State Beaver?

“In the fall of 1999 they offered me a job. There are very limited chemistry jobs,” he said. Plus, the campus is close to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

“I love it here. It’s a great place to teach,” Hay said. “You get a wide range of students. You have the challenge of inspiring the students who may be struggling. You have the perks of working at Penn State University.”

According to Hay, Beaver campus is a special place because students can spend two years at a small campus before moving on to Penn State University Park or another Penn State location.

“You don’t have that opportunity at other universities. If students need help, faculty can pursue students, and students can pursue faculty,” Hay said.

“I recommend any student start at a commonwealth campus. Take the small classes at Beaver for two years, and you’ll have smaller classes at University Park your junior and senior years,” he said.

Small classes aren’t the same as easy classes, however.

“Be ready to do work. I am demanding,” Hay said. “But you’ll soon realize the hard work you put into a grade really paid off. I’ve gotten letters and emails from former students thanking me for showing them how to work.”

Hay's love for learning doesn't end at the classroom door. He recently organized a speaker series that brought local experts - including from new campus neighbor Shell Chemicals - to campus to talk about the environment and economic development in Beaver County.


Ph.D. in Chemistry 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Master of Science in Chemistry 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry 
Bowling Green State University