Alumni Appreciation Night, February 2014.
Jeff Peterson (’96, Science & Engineering) is a physical scientist with the Department of Defense at Dugway Proving Ground, where he develops complex computer models and simulations used to supplement actual field tests of military equipment.
Dugway is a remote military installation that provides testing and evaluation services for all branches of the military. The testing done by Jeff and his team is always influenced by current environmental conditions (wind, humidity, temperatures). Jeff explains, “While the results of these tests are important, it is also crucial to know how the equipment will perform in windy, humid and cold conditions. We are able to to use the models and simulations we develop to help us predict how equipment will perform in conditions we cannot test."
Upon graduating from SUU, Jeff completed his doctorate in physical/analytical chemistry at the University of Utah. He credits SUU with preparing him for graduate school. “While many of my fellow grad students went to significantly larger schools, they were not any better prepared for the rigors of grad school than I was. I credit this to the great professors at SUU and their ability to prepare students for educational opportunities beyond undergraduate studies,” he explains.
One of those great professors was Jim Cotts from the math department. “I had calculus from him and I have never worked harder for a grade in my life. His method of teaching was entertaining, demanding and surprisingly fun,” he states. “Dr. Cotts was known as an incredibly tough exam writer and I think he took pride in that because he offered his students a pretty great deal. If you got an A on his final, he would give you an A for the entire course, regardless of what your grade was up to that point. I was lucky enough to cash in on that deal and it saved my GPA that semester.”
Jeff’s favorite SUU memory is the annual Culture Bowl that he entered with friends Wes Baker (’97), David Blanchard (’98) and Paul Shirley (’96). The College Democrat team was favored to win and Jeff’s team saw that early prediction as a challenge to them to win. The team picked up a packet of sample questions the night before the bowl and found one question focused on the Philippines, a country with which they were not familiar. So Paul went home and learned all he could about the Philippines, including a bit of Tagalog. The next day, one of the questions asked the team to count to ten in Tagalog. To the astonishment of his friends, Paul could do it and the team advanced to face the College Democrats and ultimately won the entire bowl. “It was a fun memory of SUU and my friends, and I still talk about it today,” he says.
Jeff met his wife Joy while both were attending SUU and working at K-Mart. They are the parents of four children and reside in Saratoga Springs, Utah.