- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Professor Ho Yul Choo of Gyeongsang National University, Jinju, South Korea, completed two sabbaticals in the UC Davis lab of Professor Harry Kaya and now Choo's son, Young-Moo, is a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis lab of chemical ecologist Walter Leal.
Young-Moo Choo, one of the authors of the ground-breaking DEET research published by the Leal lab in the Oct. 27 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, maintains close family ties with nematologist Harry Kaya, emeritus professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
As a visiting scientist, "Dr. Ho Yul Choo did two sabbaticals in my lab; the first was with his family in 1984-85 and Young-Moo attended elementary school in Davis," Kaya said. “Dr. Ho Yul Choo visited my lab a number of times and I visited his lab in Jinju a few times."
Young-Moo and his wife Hyang-A Won, an elementary teacher, have resided in Davis since Sept. 2, 2011.
Young-Moo received his doctorate at Dong-A University, Busan, South Korea, under professor Byung-Rae Jin. Young-Moo's younger brother, Young-Min Choo, is also a scientist who holds a doctorate. Young-Min will work as a postdoc in marine engineering at UC San Diego beginning in January 2005.
Leal first met Kaya in 1966. Kaya, who joined the UC Davis Department of Nematology (now the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology), in 1976, chaired the department from 1994-2001.
Both Leal and Kaya are fellows of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). Kaya was honored at a special ESA seminar in 2011, and one of the speakers was Hol Yul Choo.
The Leal lab's groundbreaking research, “Mosquito Odorant Receptor for DEET and Methyl Jasmonate” is the work of project scientist Pingxi Xu, postdoctoral scholar Young-Moo Choo, and agricultural and environmental chemistry graduate student Alyssa De La Rosa and Professor Leal. Scientists have long known that DEET, the gold standard of insect repellents for more than six decades, effectively repels mosquitoes, but now researchers in the Leal lab have discovered the exact odorant receptor that repels them. They have also identified a plant defensive compound that might mimic DEET, a discovery that could pave the way for better and more affordable insect repellents.