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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.

2024 L.W. Parks Lecture Schedule

LW Parks Microbiology Research Awards

We are pleased to announce the inaugural, 2024 student recipients of LW Parks Research Awards in Microbiology.  The following project proposals are recognized for their scientific merit, with financial awards of up to $1,000 provided to help achieve the described goals.  The awardees are:

Graduate Student Awards

Samantha KisthardtElucidating the role of cholate in preventing C. difficile infection in mice monocolonized with C. scindens Major: Microbiology,  Mentor: Dr. Casey Theriot

Sivaranjani PalaniRole of rare and abundant microbiomes in the anaerobic degradation of long chain fatty acids Major: Microbiology,  Mentor: Dr. Francis de los Reyes

Aurora ToennissonEvaluating the effects of Azospirillum and PPX transgenic plants on phosphorus bioavailability  Major: Plant Biology,  Mentor: Dr. Imara Perera

Undergraduate Student Awards

Rachel EdwardsUpstream Stimulatory Factor Impact on B-cell DNA Damage and cellular stress Major: Microbiology,  Mentor: Dr. Michael Sikes

Daniel RichardInvestigating Roles of UDP-Glucose in Hyaluronic Acid Production in Fructose Treated Immortalized Kupffer Cells Major: Biochemistry,  Mentor: Dr. Arion Kennedy

Emily SontagMolecular and Cultivation Assays of Human-Associated Methanogens Major: Genetics,  Mentor: Dr. Zhe Lyu

Congratulations to all of the award recipients!

March 26, 2024; 4 pm;
EDT: Distinguished Lecture

We currently face rising global temperatures, dwindling natural resources, and increased needs for human
and ecological health. To help meet these challenges, my research group discovers how microorganisms
electrically interface with materials in their environment and how they assemble advanced materials. We
leverage these insights and naturally-occurring pathways to engineer microorganisms for real-time
bioelectronic sensing and for sustainable synthesis of materials.
In the first part of my talk, I will describe how we programmed bacteria to grow into macroscopic
materials. This work provides a new platform for growing macroscopic materials with simultaneous
control over the materials and biological properties and a route towards sustainable plastics and rubbers.
In the second part of my talk, I will describe our work to develop biosensors that produce electrical
readouts and have minute detection times. Our results provide design rules to sense a variety of chemicals
with mass transport-limited detection times and a new platform for miniature, low-power bioelectronic
sensors that safeguard ecological and human health.

Zoom for remote access: 


Meeting ID: 965 2750 2978

Passcode: 060559

Wellness Workshop: Strategies for Taking Care of Your Well-Being

Luke Strawn (He/Him) Med, LCMHC, Embedded counselor, CALS & COS

Welcoming all students, Faculty, and Staff! Come join us to learn techniques that help you to focus on pro-active behaviors that promote balance in your life.

Sponsored by the LW Parks Lectureship

MARCH 28. 2024 2:00 – 3:00 PM, 3503 Thomas Hall

Past Lectures Funded by the Leo W. Parks Distinguished Lectureship

Mary K. Firestone, 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