Colleagues and friends established this award in honor of Kyung Soo Kim for the contributions he has made to the science of plant pathology through his research and service.
Kim’s research has been primarily directed toward plant cell ultrastructure, particularly with regard to the reactions of plant cells to virus infection. Kim is a strong believer that viruses are living (rather than nonliving) entities. He even believes that viruses can sign their names in cells of the hosts they inhabit. For the past 25 years, he has devoted much of his time to deciphering these virus “signatures” and produced the background for an orderly recognition of these signatures during infection. He showed that viral signatures were unique for each of several groups of plant viruses. This information was an extremely useful component in plant virus classification and was a valuable aid in the identification of plant viruses. This “virus signature” concept has been widely recognized nationally as well as internationally and led to the identification of many unknown viruses and also to the discovery of new viruses. Discovery of the Mimosa striped chlorosis virus in 1987 represents one of the significant accomplishments made through his concept. This is the first plant virus with a nonenveloped, bullet-shaped particle morphology which has been shown to contain a DNA genome. This discovery helped establish a new virus group, the badnavirus group, which has been recognized by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
In collaboration with R.M. Goodman and J. Bird, Kim pioneered research on the ultrastructural response of host plants to whitefly-transmitted geminiviruses whose etiological agents had been unknown for almost a century. A series of studies led to a discovery of a unique DNA-containing inclusion in cells infected with bean golden mosaic virus, an economically important whitefly-transmitted geminivirus. These inclusions which have been referred to as “Kim’s bodies” by some investigators, have been instrumental in diagnosing the diseases caused by whitefly-transmitted geminiviruses occurring throughout the world. As a result, Kim’s help and suggestions are sought by a large number of individuals researching plant virology problems. He has worked very closely with virologists as a team at UA and has collaborated with individuals at a number of institutions in the United States. He has had cooperative research with scientists from Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, and Israel. Less well known is the fact that he has collaborated with a variety of scientists in areas other than plant pathology, including entomology, agronomy, animal science, botany, and zoology.
In recognition of his distinguished contributions in science to the university community and outstanding research accomplishments achieved, Kim received the prestigious UA Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Research in 1989. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and The American Phytopathological Society and a member of the American Society for Cell Biology, and Gamma Sigma Delta. He has also served as an associate editor for Virology.
In addition to numerous publications in scientific journals, Kim has presented a large number of seminars and invited lectures in the United States as well as Costa Rica, England, Korea, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Guatemala, Japan, and China.
Each spring semester, Kim taught a course in the use of electron microscopy in biology. By reputation, students knew that this was a demanding course and that long hours and meticulous work were required. Nonetheless, this course was regularly overfilled. In addition, he has directed the Ph.D. programs of a number of graduate students, foreign and domestic. Some of these former students are now in positions of leadership in universities in the United States and other countries.
Since his retirement from UA in 2002, Kim has been involved in teaching and research programs in an advisory capacity at Seoul National University and the Rural Development Administration in the Republic of Korea.