Walter S. Leal, ESA Fellow (2009)

Dr. Walter S. Leal, a chemical ecologist and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, is internationally recognized for his pioneering and innovative work in insect olfaction. He has identified and synthesized complex pheromones from such insects as scarab beetles, true bugs, longhorn beetles, moths, and the naval orangeworm.

He and his laboratory discovered the secret mode of the insect repellent DEET. The groundbreaking research, published August 18, 2008 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is among the most widely downloaded and cited PNAS documents. His pheromone work has graced the cover of several journals, including Structure, and has been showcased in the popular press, including the BBC, New York Times, and National Public Radio.

His honors include the 2008 ESA Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology, and the 2007 Silverstein-Simeone Award from the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE). His native Brazil awarded him its Medal of the Entomological Society of Brazil, and the Medal of Science (equivalent of ESA Fellow). The Japanese Society of Applied Entomology and Zoology granted him its highest honor, Gakkaisho.

Educated in Brazil and Japan, Leal holds a doctorate in applied biochemistry from Tsukuba University, Japan, with other degrees in chemical engineering and agricultural chemistry. He is a past president of ISCE, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. Under his tenure, the department was ranked number one in the country by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

(updated August, 2009)