Byung Kook Hwang
Byung Kook Hwang was born March 3, 1947, in Junju, Korea. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Seoul National University in 1970 and 1975, respectively. For two years, he was employed as a rice pathologist at the Department of Plant Pathology, National Institute of Agriculture Science and Technology, Suweon, before beginning work on his Ph.D. degree. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1981 from Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany, under the direction of Dr. Rudolf Heitefuss and then joined the College of Life and Environmental Sciences (formerly the College of Agriculture), Korea University, where he progressed to the rank of professor in 1987. Between 1988 and 1989, Dr. Hwang was a research scholar on sabbatical at the Institut fur Pflanzenpathologie and Pflanzenschultz, Georg-August- Universität. He was appointed adjunct scientist and plant pathologist at the National Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology in 1994. He served as director of the Institute of Life Science and Natural Resources, Korea University, from 2000 to 2002.
Early in his career, Dr. Hwang conducted research on the mechanism of adult plant resistance and induced resistance of barley to powdery mildew with Dr. Heitefuss. He demonstrated that carbohydrate and protein metabolism was altered during plant development, possibly with some relation to the appearance of adult plant resistance in barley cultivars. Subsequent research by Dr. Hwang showed that systemic acquired resistance was expressed in upper barley leaves upon infection on the lower leaves by Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei.
After joining the Korea University in 1981, Dr. Hwang pioneered studies on the cytology, physiology, and molecular genetics of defense responses to Phytophthora capsici and Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria, which cause Phytophthora blight and bacterial spot disease of pepper, respectively. He isolated and characterized several genes involved in signaling the defense response in pepper. His extensive research achievements have led to a better understanding of the physiological and molecular basis of disease resistance, so as to improve practical disease control by engineering broad-spectrum resistance in peppers. In addition to this research on a pepper–pathogen interaction, Dr. Hwang and his colleagues studied the epidemiology and physiology of adult plant resistance of rice to rice blast, caused by Magnaporthe grisea, in relation to blast severity and yield losses in rice. The adult resistance cultivars screened by Dr. Hwang’s researchers became useful in the breeding of rice cultivars resistant to rice blast disease in Korea.
Dr. Hwang’s research also has led to the isolation of a number of antifungal compounds, including tubercidin, a manumycin-type antibiotic, streptimidone, daunomycin, rhamnolipid B, phenylacetate, and aerugine from the culture extracts of actinomycetes and soil bacteria antagonistic to plant-pathogenic fungi and oomycetes. These antifungal antibiotics that are effective in controlling plant disease are available as active ingredients in fungicides for direct application to diseased plants or as starting points for the development of environmentally friendly biofungicides in agriculture.
Dr. Hwang has supervised 30 M.S. and nine Ph.D. plant pathology students. Two of his former students are currently professors of plant pathology at universities in Korea, and most of his other students hold research plant pathology positions at different universities or research institutes in Korea and the United States. He offers undergraduate and graduate courses on introductory plant pathology, plant–pathogen interaction, plant disease resistance, and molecular plant pathology at Korea University. Dr. Hwang has been particularly active in presenting lectures as well as participating in workshops and symposia on topics related to plant pathology around the world. He has published 114 refereed papers, one book, three book chapters, and other scientific articles. Dr. Hwang is the recipient of many awards, including the Distinguished Research Award from Korea Science and Technology Association in 1996 and both the Korea University Distinguished Research Award and the Hwa-Nong Foundation Award for agricultural research in 1997. In 1999, Dr. Hwang was elected a member of the Korea Academy of Science and Technology. In 2002, the Korean Society of Plant Pathology recognized him for his outstanding contribution to understanding the physiological, biochemical, and molecular biology of resistance in pepper to Phytophthora blight and bacterial spot diseases.
Dr. Hwang has been an active member of the Korean Society of Plant Pathology since 1984 and is currently the vice president of the society. In 1997, he established the Korean Society of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions and served as its president. He is also a member of the International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions and the Deutsche Phytomedizinische Geselloschaft. He is currently serving as an editor of the Journal of Phytopathology. Dr. Hwang has been a member of The American Phytopathological Society since 1982.