Jacob Parente '15
-story by Kaitlyn Sewell '15
With a strong potential for innovative discovery, Jacob Parente ’15
is using his interest in coastal geology for his Schapiro Undergraduate Research
Fellowship (SURF) project. SURF offers students
the unique opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research during
the summer months, under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Parente, an environmental studies
major with an expertise in geology, is from Binson, North Carolina. He is analyzing
how storm frequency and magnitude affect Virginia shorelines.
“I am analyzing data taken by offshore buoys that measure wave heights and periods,”
he explains. “These factors point to how much wave energy is present on a particular
day, which will help me determine when past storms of significant magnitude occurred.”
His goal is to find trends in the data that suggest a link between storm frequency
and intensity and climate change, and what the implications are for the future.
He will also be looking at aerial and satellite photography of the Virginia Barrier
Islands to analyze how storms have impacted the 12 natural islands off the coast
Parente’s interest in science began at a young age.
“I had a rock collection when I was growing up,” he says, “and I wanted to be an
engineer.” After taking Geology 101 at R-MC to fulfill a lab requirement, Parente’s
interest in geology was sparked. Students began by classifying rocks and minerals,
and later progressed into field work at Virginia Beach.
Parente also took Environmental Studies/Geology Professor Michael Fenster’s course,
Advanced Environmental-problem Solving, in which
students traveled to the Eastern Shore to test water from wells in communities
that are economically disadvantaged. Students assessed the health risks posed to
these residents when they drink groundwater from their wells located in the same
area as their pit privies. Students then recruited members from these communities
to allow sampling of their well water, and educated them at the end of the project
about the environmental health risks.
Fenster, a coastal and marine geologist and the
Stephen H. Watts Professor of Science, is serving as Parente’s SURF mentor.
“Jacob’s project is asking big questions related to climate change, and his research
has a lot of potential for groundbreaking progress, as well as the possibility of
being published,” Fenster shares. “With SURF, students experience real research,
from beginning to end, with all of the frustrations, tedious work, and ultimately,
the joys of discovery.”
Parente is a brother of
Sigma Phi Epsilon, whose philanthropic outreach helps BARK (Bandit’s Adoption
and Rescue of K-9s), a dog shelter.
“It’s great for the fraternity as a bonding event, and great for the dogs, who get
some playtime and see new faces each week,” he says. Parente is also a member of
the Intramural Board in the Athletics
Department. “I enjoy playing all of the sports,” he says. “Next semester,
I will be coordinating racquetball, inner-tube water polo, and kickball.”
Parente also works as a Resident Assistant,
and in his free time, he enjoys fishing “for anything that’s biting” at Topsail
Island, North Carolina.
Parente looks forward to pursuing his scientific interests in graduate school and
knows that his experience as a SURF participant is preparing him for his future.
“I hope to present my SURF research to the Geological Society of America during
one of their regional meetings,” says Parente. “It’s a great way to get ready for
The SURF program was established in 1995 through a generous gift made by Ben '64
and Peggy Schapiro. The Schapiros continue to support this program, which promotes
scholarly undergraduate research by R-MC students in all disciplines.