Leo W. Parks Distinguished Lectureship in Microbiology

       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 Research Council-National Academy of Sciences Fellowship, he was a post-doctoral resident 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), Corvallis, Oregon, as an assistant professor and progressed through the ranks to professor. Dr. Parks came to NC State in 1985 as professor and head of the Department of Microbiology. During his career, thirty-two graduate students earned their doctoral degrees with his supervision. His research focused on the biosynthesis of ergosterol in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and ergosterol as a target for antifungals.  He regularly taught the undergraduate and graduate courses in microbial physiology and was Head of the Department of Microbiology from 1985 through 1993. The NC State microbiology seniors presented him with a plaque at the May 2001 graduation ceremony, recognizing his outstanding teaching and expressing their gratitude to him for his caring attitude. Leo and his wife, Nancy, reside in Seattle, Washington.

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


Past Lecturers

Dennis Dean, Martin Warren, Russell Rodriguez, Matthew Chapman, Allan Konopka, Rodolphe Barrangou, Nicholas Ornston, Peter Greenberg, Derek Lovely, Caroline Harwood, Patrick Dennis

The Leo W. Parks Distinguished Lectureship in Microbial Physiology honors Dr. Parks in perpetuity for his selfless attitude and many contributions to the university 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 Microbiology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. Special thanks to Warren Casey and Hosni Hassan for their leadership role in the creation of the endowment. Contact information: Chris Cammarene-Wessel, North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, Inc., North Carolina State University Box 7645, Raleigh, NC  27695; 919-515-7678; chris_wessel@ncsu.edu.

                                         2020 L.W. Parks Lecture

Due to COVID-19 Lecture Postponed Until Further Notice

Abstract: Cells of diverse organisms, from cyanobacteria to humans, execute temporal programs that are driven by circadian oscillators. The circadian clock of the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus is a discrete nanomachine comprising three proteins – KaiA, KaiB, and KaiC – which interact progressively to set up the timekeeping mechanism, and two kinases whose activities are altered by engaging the Kai oscillator. The key events that enable the clock to tell time, become set to local time, and regulate global patterns of gene expression and metabolism, rely on these five proteins plus the target of the kinases: a transcription factor, RpaA. The clock is permissive late in the day for processes that prepare the cell for night, when photosynthetic metabolism will be inoperative. Transcripts of genes peak at dusk that encode enzymes of a night-time metabolic program. During the night, glycogen stored during the day is broken down to fuel the synthesis of a crucial reductant, NADPH. Prior to dawn, the night-time program is turned off by the clock, enabling the cell to switch from utilizing stored carbon to synthesizing cellular components when light becomes available to power photosynthesis. Our program and publications are described at: https://biology.ucsd.edu/research/faculty/sgolden