- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said he pleased to have Leal on board. “Professor Leal's leadership will strengthen our world-renowned Department of Entomology,” the dean said. “His research is innovative and respected by entomologists throughout the world and has a beneficial impact on pest management in California agriculture.”
“The UC Davis Entomology Department is one of the leading entomology departments in the nation and the world,” Leal said, “and what we do here reflects on entomology everywhere.”
Leal said he accepts the leadership challenge and opportunities “that will take us to new directions and to move forward.”
Entomology professors Frank Zalom and Thomas Scott will serve as the vice chairs.
Leal joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 2000 as an associate professor and advanced to professor in 2002. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); a past president of the International Society of Chemical Ecology ISCE); and secretary and upcoming chair-elect of Section B--the Physiology, Biochemistry, Toxicology, and Molecular Biology section--of the Entomological Society of America.
Leal received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in his native Brazil and advanced degrees from universities in Japan: his master's degree in agricultural chemistry from Mie University, and his doctorate in applied biochemistry from the University of Tsukuba.
Before joining the UC Davis faculty, Leal served as research leader of the Science and Technology Agency of Japan and the Bio-Oriented Technology Research Advancement Institute (BRAIN) and head of the Laboratory of Chemical Prospecting at the National Institute of Sericultural and Entomological Sciences in Tsukuba.
When Leal received the AAAS Fellow award earlier this year, entomology professor John Hildebrand of the University of Arizona praised him as “an international leader in entomology and one of the top chemical ecologists in the world.”
“UC Davis achieved a coup when it attracted Dr. Leal to its faculty in 2000,” Hildebrand said, adding that that Leal's “exceptional abilities and promise benefit the students and research enterprise of UC Davis as well as the entomological and chemical-ecological communities in the United States.”
UC Davis entomology professor James Carey (who teamed with Hildebrand and Robert Page, director of the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, to nominate Leal for the AAAS Fellow award), described him as “one of the most gifted scientists I know—intelligent, disciplined, creative and motivated.”
“Young scientists seek him, funding agencies support him, honorific committees award him prestigious prizes and honors, UC Davis hired him, scholars respect him and his colleagues befriend him,” Carey wrote in the nomination papers.
Leal is best known for his research on the identification and synthesis of insect sex pheromones and on the chemical ecology and chemical communication of insects and potential applications for pest control. His research has practical implications in explaining how insects communicate within species, how they detect host and non-host plants, and how insect parasites detect their prey.
Leal was just named the recipient of the 2007 Silverstein-Simeone Award in Chemical Ecology at ISCE's 22nd annual conference in Barcelona, Spain, July 15-19. Cited for “outstanding work at the frontiers of chemical ecology,” he will be presented the lecture award in Jena, Germany, in 2007. The award is named for Robert M. (Milt) Silverstein and John B. Simeone, founding editors of the Journal of Chemical Ecology.
The Department of Entomology, headquartered in Briggs Hall, is a large academic department in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences with instructional, research and outreach programs. The department is comprised of 23 faculty, 1 adjunct faculty, 4 Cooperative Extension specialists, 54 professional researchers, 18 lecturers, 9 teaching assistants, 32 graduate student researchers, and 35 academic and staff support personnel. The department currently has 23 undergraduate students and 36 graduate students.
On and off-campus sites house academic and administrative offices, laboratories, field buildings and other special facilities, including those at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center, Parlier. The department's annual operating budget, including contracts and grants, gifts, and endowments, totals approximately $31 million.