Karl J. Kramer, ESA Fellow (2004)

Dr. Karl J. Kramer, a research chemist at the USDA-ARS Center for Grain and Animal Health Research (CGAHR) and adjunct professor of biochemistry at Kansas State University (KSU), was elected as Fellow in 2004.  He is internationally recognized for his research on insect cuticle structure and metabolism; tanning, molting, and digestive enzymes; and the use of insect growth regulators, biocontrol agents, and transgenic plants for insect pest control.

Kramer was born in Evansville, IN in 1942 and attended Purdue University, receiving his B.S. in chemistry in 1964.  As a senior, he took an introductory biochemistry course and made the decision to major in biochemistry in graduate school.  He went on to the Department of Chemistry at the University of Arizona, Tucson, completing a dissertation titled Chemical Modification of Lysozyme and received his Ph.D. in 1971.  After graduation, Kramer was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Chicago, where he became interested in entomology, studying proteolytic enzymes used by silk moths to escape from their cocoons, hornworm juvenile hormone (JH) metabolism and transport, mantid egg case proteins, and hornworm neuropeptides.  In 1974 Kramer accepted positions at CGAHR and KSU where he remained until his retirement in 2003.  

Kramer's overall focus as a research chemist was to understand the relatively insect-specific biochemical processes that lead to normal growth and development, and try to manipulate those processes for insect control purposes.  His research projects focused primarily on the structures and functions of many types of insect proteins, peptides, and growth factors including proteases, JH-active enzymes and transport proteins, neuropeptides, carbohydrate-active enzymes and binding proteins, amino acid-active enzymes, laccases, dopachrome conversion enzyme, a-amylases, cuticle proteins and cross-linking agents, storage proteins, and ascorbic acid.  Additionally, he worked on various potential insect control materials including JH-type insect growth regulators (IGRs), benzoylphenylurea-type IGRs, Bacillus thuringiensis endotoxins, wheat neurotoxins, proteinase and amylase inhibitors, and the antinutritional protein avidin.  The results of his research had a major impact in insect molecular science and on pre- and post-harvest insect pest management programs.

Kramer served on the editorial boards of Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Journal of Entomological Science.  In 1986 he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for exceptional contributions to insect biochemistry, particularly cuticle biosynthesis and degradation, metabolic regulation, neuropeptides, and insect growth regulators.  Also in 1986, he was named the USDA-ARS Central Plains Scientist of the Year for exceptional research on insect development and application of insect growth regulators for pest control, and in 1999 he was named the Northern Plains Area Senior Scientist of the Year for pioneering research in insect molecular science and its application to the development of insect pest control methods.  In 2002 he received the ESA Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry & Toxicology.  He remains active in insect molecular science research as a collaborator at CGAHR and adjunct professor emeritus of biochemistry at KSU.

(updated June, 2012)