Kyung Soo Kim was born in Seoul, Korea, and raised in North Korea. He fled to South Korea during the Korean conflict in 1950. He received his B.S. degree in biology from Kyung Puk National University, Korea. He received his M.S. degree in zoology in 1963 and his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1971 from the University of Arkansas. His doctoral research, under J. P. Fulton, involved studying subcellular responses of systematic and hypersensitive hosts to infection by comoviruses. In 1974, he was appointed as a research associate and he became an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Arkansas. He was promoted to associate professor in 1978 and to professor in 1982. In 1993, he was appointed university professor. He is responsible for administration of the university-wide electron microscope facility and has research and teaching responsibilities in plant pathology. His research contributions are well recognized nationally and internationally, and his students can testify to his excellence in teaching.
Dr. Kim’s research has been directed primarily toward plant cell ultrastructure, particularly reactions of plant cells to virus infection. Dr. Kim is a strong believer that viruses are living entities, rather than nonliving, that can sign their names in host cells. He has devoted much of his time to deciphering virus signatures and has produced the background for orderly recognition of signatures during infection. He showed that viral signatures are unique for each of several groups of plant viruses. The virus signature concept has been widely utilized to identify many unknown viruses and to discover new ones. Discovery of the mimosa striped chlorosis virus in 1987 represents one of the significant accomplishments made using this concept. This is the first plant virus with a nonenveloped, bullet-shaped particle morphology, which contains 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, Dr. Kim pioneered research on the ultrastructural response of host plants to whiteflytransmitted geminiviruses, whose etiological agents were unknown. A series of studies led to the discovery of a unique DNA-containing inclusion in cells infected with bean golden mosaic virus. These inclusions, often referred to as “Kim’s bodies” by investigators, have been instrumental in diagnosing the diseases caused by whitefly-transmitted geminiviruses throughout the world. As a result, Dr. 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 the University of Arkansas and has collaborated with individuals at a number of institutions in the United States. He has done cooperative research with scientists from Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Thailand, China, and Israel. He also 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, Dr. Kim received the prestigious University of Arkansas Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Research in 1989. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of APS, the American Society for Cell Biology, and Gamma Sigma Delta. He also has served as an associate editor for Virology.
In addition to numerous publications in scientific journals, Dr. Kim has presented a large number of seminars and invited lectures in the United States and around the world.
Each spring semester, Dr. Kim teaches a course in the use of electron microscopy in biology. By reputation, students know that this is a demanding course and that long hours and meticulous work will be required. Nonetheless, this course is regularly oversubscribed. In addition, he has directed the Ph.D. degree programs of a number of graduate students, foreign and U.S. Dr. Kim is one of today’s most hard-working, conscientious, devoted leaders in plant pathology.