Link to home

Kyung Soo Kim Student Travel Grant

Colleagues and friends established this fund in honor of Kyung Soo Kim for the contributions he has made to the science of plant pathology through his research and service.

Kyung Soo Kim
Kyung Soo Kim was born in Seoul, Korea, on June 6, 1933. He was raised in North Korea until he fled to South Korea during the Korean conflict in 1950. He received his B.S. degree in biology from Kyung Puk National University in Korea. At the University of Arkansas (UA), he received his M.S. degree in zoology (1963) and his Ph.D. in plant pathology (1971). His doctoral research, under the direction of J. P. Fulton, involved the study of subcellular responses of systemic and hypersensitive hosts to infection of comoviruses. In the same year, he was appointed as a research associate and became an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at UA in 1974. He was promoted to associate professor in 1978 and to professor in 1982. In 1993, he was appointed to the distinguished rank of university professor. He was responsible for administration of the university-wide electron microscope facility and has research and teaching responsibility in plant pathology. His research contributions are well recognized in national as well as international circles and his students can testify to his excellence in teaching.

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.