Dr. Hayes is a Professor of Human Comparative and Prostate Cancer Genomics at the University of Sydney and Garvan Institute in Australia. She has extraordinary and honorary Professorships at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo, respectively, in South Africa. She received her undergraduate education from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa and her Ph.D. in Medical Genetics from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands in 1999. After heading a research laboratory in South Africa investigating the genetic basis of HIV-susceptibility in local populations, she moved to Australia to head a Cancer Genetics group where the major focus of her research was in defining prostate cancer risk. During this period she was awarded a Fulbright Australian-American Professional Scholarship (2009), the Ruth Stephens Gani Medal for Human Genetics (2008) and the New South Wales Premiers Award for Cancer Research Fellow (2007).
In 2010, she co-led a study to define the extent of human diversity by generating the genome sequence of South African Noble Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and !Gubi, a Bushmen hunter from the Kalahari of Namibia. This work, published in Nature 2010, was the first genome sequence of an indigenous person. Dr. Hayes is continuing her efforts to define the extent of human genome diversity and use this knowledge for phenotypic correlations related to human evolution and disease impact. She believes we have only touched on our understanding of the extent and significance of diversity of the human genome. She has expanded on this work to define timelines of human divergence and human evolution within Southern Africa.