Colten Peterson Shares Undergraduate Science Experiences with Southeast Board of Regents

Colten Peterson said his experiences in the sciences at Southeast Missouri State University have shaped and prepared him as he plans to turn the page on his next chapter.

Peterson, a graduating senior from Champaign, Illinois, highlighted his outstanding undergraduate career in a presentation today to the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents.

He will graduate Saturday from Southeast with a double major in physics and engineering physics, mechanical applications option, and a minor in applied mathematics. He has been admitted to a doctoral program at the University of Michigan for atmospheric and space sciences.

“I have been offered a research assistantship in which I will develop novel methodologies for analyzing optical information collected by Earth observing satellites,” Peterson said.

He and four other students recently won a Society of Physics Students Chapter Research Award for a project they designed, developing technology to boost the success of cancer treatment. Their project, “Hybrid Photo-Magnetic Actuation for Target Specific Killing of Damaged Cells,” began as part of a senior capstone design class last spring with an added research component in biomedical engineering. The goal of their project was to develop a point-of-care technology to improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment. The study is important because, if successful, it will prove that smart nanostructure-based photo-magnetic hybrid irradiation is viable for remotely guiding neuroblastoma cancer cell destruction. This may be adopted in the clinical management for treating aggressive cancers.

In addition, he told the Board about his experience last summer, in which he participated in the NASA Student Airborne Research Program in Palmdale, California. Peterson flew on a NASA DC-8 research aircraft, collected oceanographic field data and developed his own personalized research project that related to satellite remote sensing of coastal ecosystems.

“Flying in the DC-8 was a great experience,” said Peterson. “The aircraft was completely stripped out and turned into a flying laboratory.

“This amazing opportunity will help me to pursue a career in earth and planetary sciences,” he said. “I will use the skills I have developed and the experience that I have gained to help pave my path to a PhD. My ultimate goal is to work for NASA and pursue an exciting career studying either the solar system or our own planet.”

After returning from that experience, Peterson presented his summer internship research project at the American Physical Society’s (APS) 2016 Fall Meeting. His research focused on chlorophyll concentration, he said, explaining that as a member of the Ocean Remote Sensing team, he studied different processes in the coastal waters of California, used satellite and airborne optical sensor data and analyzed the light reflected from the water to determine a variety of physical and biological processes. He said his research brought him closer to understanding vital systems of the world’s ecosystem and how they can affect human society.

He also received funding from NASA to present at the American Geophysical Society conference in San Francisco last December.

In spring 2016, Peterson participated in a four-day seminar over spring break at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. In spring 2015, he served as a Research Assistant on campus, working on a Quantum Computing Quantum Error Correction (QEC) project, which involved using Southeast’s supercomputer. During that time, Peterson enhanced his understanding and knowledge of supercomputing and Monte-Claro simulations.

Peterson, who won the 2015-2016 Experiential Learning Award for the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture, also highlighted his experience with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in summer 2015. There, his research focused on fiber optic pressure sensors.

“I chose to apply for this research program because the University of Nebraska offers many research opportunities in nanotechnology and physics/engineering. The faculty is performing cutting-edge research and I wanted to be a part of it,” Peterson said.

A graduate of Cape Central High School, Peterson said he chose Southeast for his undergraduate studies because it was close to home.

“Southeast Missouri State University has provided me with an environment filled with opportunities. I pursued as many opportunities as possible to grow as a scientist and a leader,” he said. “My experiences at Southeast have allowed me to participate in government funded research programs, and I achieved my goals of interning with NASA. My education at Southeast has driven me to develop an unwavering curiosity about the natural world and the skills that I need to become a successful scientist.  I am confident that my experience at Southeast will allow me to succeed in graduate school and beyond.”