Leah Wenhold Parente

School: College of Science and Technology  
Degree: BS, geology, 2017  
Hometown: Allentown, Pennsylvania    

A merit scholarship Leah Wenhold Parente, CST ’17, received when she applied to Temple made her decision to become an Owl a no-brainer. It also propelled her pursuit of an interest first discovered on a vacation to Acadia National Park when she was 14. There, a conversation with the park ranger about how Maine’s landscape was influenced by glaciers ignited interest in the earth and the environment. Today as a hydrogeologist in North Carolina, Parente’s job is to prevent contamination of groundwater and surface water from non-discharge systems, or wastewater treatment and disposal/refuse systems, including PFAS or “forever” chemicals. 

Rare finds

The Department of Earth and Environmental Science was the right choice for Parente. “I think it’s really rare that you have a department where every single faculty member is extremely caring and invested in their students and that shines through,” she said. 

Three faculty members in particular played a role in her success at Temple and beyond. Among them is Professor Laura Toran, a hydrologist with a special focus on urban environments. It was Toran who provided Parente with her first summer research opportunity. “Without her being such a dynamic professor, I wouldn’t have developed an interest in hydrogeology,” Parente said. 

Next is Associate Professor Ilya Buynevich, a coastal and marine geologist, with whom she conducted three different research projects. He helped cement her passion for doing research. “He helped me realize that I wanted to continue conducting research after graduating,” she said. 

Structural geologist and Associate Professor Nick Davatzes showed Parente the importance of working together. “His class especially promoted teamwork over the individual, which I think is so important in the sciences because they can be competitive. I think it’s great when you have people who are in positions of authority showing that this work best gets done when we work as a team,” she said. 

A sparkling scholar 

Parente herself made an impact on the department, serving as a founding member of the National Honor Society for Earth Sciences. As the student ombudsperson, she took an active role in mentoring younger students in the department and putting on monthly events. Among these was a session she co-created for students identifying as female about the intensive six-week field camp, a requirement for the geology program. “We talked about issues like how to handle having your period when you’re out in the field, struggles that have been traditionally overlooked in geology because it has been a male-dominated field for a very long time,” she said. 

For her work in supporting her fellow students, Parente earned the Diamond Award, which she said was one of her proudest accomplishments. “It was an honor to be recognized by the department,” she said. “And it’s one of my finest memories.”

Leah Wenhold Parente smiles into the camera.
Leah Wenhold Parente poses for a photo.

“I think it’s really rare that you have a department where every single faculty member is extremely caring and invested in their students and that really shines through.”

–Leah Wenhold Parente

Solid as a rock 

Another favorite Temple memory was attending the weekly geology presentations from visiting professors and other geologists. “It was so neat to see what other people were doing out in the field and to learn about the possibilities for a career in the geosciences,” Parente said.  

One of those possibilities turned out to be her current position as a geologist/hydrogeologist in the Division of Water Resources Non-discharge Branch at the State of North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. In this role, Parente is making a national impact as she protects North Carolina waters from contamination. 

“My Temple education really helped shape me into the professional that I am today,” she said.