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Leo W. Parks Distinguished Lectureship

History of Dr. Leo W. Parks

Dr. Leo W. Parks, Professor Emeritus, was born in Wetaug, Illinois, and raised in the Chicago area. He received his B.S. with honors from the University of Illinois, Master’s degree from Indiana University, and Ph.D. from the University of Washington. Under the auspices of a National Academy of Sciences Fellowship, he was a post-doctoral research associate in biochemistry at the Argonne National Laboratory. This was interrupted for active duty service in the US Army. After his service, Dr. Parks joined the faculty at Oregon State University (OSU) as an assistant professor and progressed through the ranks to professor. Dr. Parks came to NC State in 1985 as a professor and the head of the Department of Microbiology.

During his career, thirty-two graduate students earned their doctoral degrees under his supervision. His research focused on the biosynthesis of ergosterol in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a target for antifungals. Dr. Parks regularly taught the undergraduate and graduate courses in Microbial Physiology, and he served as Head of the Department of Microbiology from 1985 through 1993. At the commencement ceremony in May 2001, the graduating microbiology undergraduate students presented Dr. Parks with a plaque to recognize his outstanding teaching and to express their gratitude to him. Dr. Leo Parks has since retired, and he currently lives with his wife, Nancy, in Seattle, Washington.

The Leo W. Parks Distinguished Lectureship in Microbiology

This lecture series was created to honor Dr. Parks in perpetuity for his selfless attitude and many contributions to the NC State community. The Lectureship is made possible by the generous donors who helped establish a permanent endowment in the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc., with matching support from the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology (PMB) in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at North Carolina State University. Special thanks to Warren Casey and Hosni Hassan for their leadership role in the creation of the endowment.

We extend our gratitude and many thanks to all the generous donors to the endowment, including alumni, family, friends, NCSU and corporations, that make this Lectureship possible.

2023 L.W. Parks Lecture Schedule

On April 11, 2023 the Leo W. Parks Endowment in Microbiology will feature three events – a DEI Discussion on K-12 STEM Outreach, Student Microbiology Presentations, and the Distinguished Lecture by Dr. Mary Firestone of the University of California, Berkeley. All are invited to participate in these events in person in 3503 Thomas Hall and through online links provided below. For more information about these activities, visit the event website.

The deadline for Student Presentation intent to submit by undergraduate and graduate students is March 29th, 2023, with final upload due on April 5th, 2023. Please complete this google form to sign up for a presentation. 

April 11th, 2023, 4:00pm EDT: Distinguished Lecture

Plant roots and the organisms that surround them are the primary source for stabilized soil organic carbon (SOC). This characteristic of the terrestrial C cycle is critical to C storage, soil water holding capacity, nutrient provision, and the management of soil health. While grassland soils have a large capacity to store organic carbon (C), few field-based studies have quantified the movement of plant-fixed C into soil and its persistence belowground over multiple years. We tracked the fate of plant-fixed C in the field following a five-day 13CO2 labeling of a Northern California annual grassland, characterizing the soil C pools over a period of two years. Our results indicate that newly fixed C moved into soil within days and was associated with the soil mineral fraction within weeks. While most of the annual plant C input in these grasslands cycles rapidly (<2-year timescale), a sizable proportion (about 23% of the 13C present at day 0) persisted in the soil for longer than 2 years. 

Past Lectures Funded by the Leo W. Parks Distinguished Lectureship

Manu Prakash, Susan S. Golden, Dennis Dean, Martin Warren, Russell Rodriguez, Matthew Chapman, Allan Konopka, Rodolphe Barrangou, Nicholas Ornston, Peter Greenberg, Derek Lovely, Caroline Harwood, Patrick Dennis, and many other extraordinary researchers

Contact Information for L.W. Parks Lectureship 

Chris Cammarene-Wessel
North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc.
North Carolina State University
Box 7645
Raleigh, NC  27695