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UC Davis chemical ecologist wins major award

DAVIS, CALIF.Chemical ecologist Walter Leal, professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, is the 2008 winner of a major award from the Entomological Society of America (ESA): the Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology.

Leal, former chair of the Department of Entomology, received the honor for his innovative and creative research involving insect communication. His lab recently discovered the mode of action for the mosquito repellent, DEET.

Leal will be honored at a ceremony on Sunday night, Nov. 16 at the ESA meeting in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, Reno. He is one of seven professionals receiving distinguished awards. The other categories are extension, entomology, horticultural entomology, teaching, the certification program and early career innovation.

Wrote chemical ecologist and retired professor William S. Bowers, University of Arizona: "Professor Leal's discoveries have profoundly impacted agriculture, the environment, and human health. His mating of chemistry and biology has positioned him as one of the real leaders in the development of environmental protective, biorational methods for pest and disease control."

Colleague Ring Card, chair of the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside, lauded Leal as "one of the leading scientists worldwide studying the chemistry of pheromone communication in insects and related arthropods."

A pioneer in the field of insect olfaction, Leal is best known for his research on the mode of action of odorant binding proteins and odorant-degrading enzymes on the identification and synthesis of insect sex pheromones and on insect chemical communication.

The Leal lab unveiled DEET's mode of action on Aug. 18. Contrary to previous hypotheses, DEET doesn't jam the senses or mask the smell of the host; mosquitoes smell the repellent directly and avoid it.

Under his tenure as chair, the UC Davis Department of Entomology was ranked last November as the No. 1 department in the country by the Chronicle of Higher Education.


Contact: Kathy Keatley Garvey
University of California - Davis

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