Walter S. Leal

Walter Leal headshot

Position Title
Distinguished Professor

  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
1107 The Grove (Surge III)

Research Interests

Insect prominence among other animals is primarily due to a sophisticated olfactory system, which can selectively detect minute amounts of odorants. We aim to unravel the molecular mechanisms underpinning this remarkable selectivity and sensitivity of the insect’s olfactory system (e.g., BioRxiv 485336; PMID: 35430419; PMID: 31760135; PMID: 31349189 ). One main applied objective of our research is to “identify approaches that will help control or prevent the transmission of vector-borne pathogens to humans.” This goal is in line with the mission of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – the primary sponsor of our research program. We apply a reverse chemical ecology approach (e.g., PMID: 29311316; PMID: 30401626) that leads to developing novel mosquito oviposition attractants and repellents. This multi-disciplinary approach identifies olfactory proteins, such as odorant receptors (e.g., PMID: 24167245; PMID: 25349401; PMID: 35364281; PMID: 31442487), and small molecules (putative attractants and repellents) that interact with them. Lastly, we test these lead compounds using sensory physiology methods, measuring behavior, and performing field tests.

Education and Degree(s)
  • 1982 B. Eng. (Chemical Engineering), Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil
  • 1987 M.S. in Agricultural Chemistry, Mie University, Tsu-Mie, Japan
  • 1990, Ph.D. in Applied Biochemistry, University of Tsukuba, Japan
  • 1991 Postdoc in Entomology, National Institute of Sericultural and Entomological Science, Japan