William Peterson



he / him / his


Research Scientist


Dr. Peterson was born and raised in Denver, Colorado graduating from South Denver High School in 1959. He was supported by a Boettcher Foundation scholarship that allowed him to take the winter of 62-63 off for travels in Europe. He graduated with honors with a BS in Engineering Physics from the University of Colorado in 1964. Jobs were plentiful at the time. Rather than taking a job in industry or starting graduate school, he took a job as a management trainee in the local phone company. The management job didn't work out so he started graduate school at the University of Colorao in 1966 under a National Defense fellowship. His thesis work at JILA was with Drs Beaty and Opal on the angular distributions of secondary electrons from electron impact ionization of a number of gasses. (Opal et al., 1971). He took a postdoctoral position at the Deutches Electronen Synchrotron in Hamburg Germany to work on a polarized electron source for the accelerator (Krisciokaitis-Krisst, and W.K. Peterson, 1974). The switch in fields didn't work out either! He took a second postdoc in Baltimore Maryland with Prof. John Doering. There he joined NASA's Atmosphere Explorer program and had a crash course in space plasma physics. The space program was exciting and there were job opportunities. In 1977 Dr. Peterson took his family to Palo Alto California to join the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratories to work on accessing and interpreting data from a number of energetic ion mass spectrometers. The Lockheed group pioneered space based energetic ion mass spectrometers and one almost all of the NASA competitions to put one on magetospheric satellites. including ISEE, DE, AMPTE, and POLAR. Interacting with the science teams on these programs lead to many papers that elucidated the basic structure of Earth's magnetosphere and many lasting professional relationships. In 2001 Dr. Peterson retired from Lockheed and took a position as a research assistant at LASP at the University of Colorado, where he continued his research and took on several service jobs. From 2002 to 2004 Dr. Peterson was at NASA Headquarters under an Intergovernemental Program Act (IPA) appointment. During this period the THEMIS, MMS, and RBSP programs were finalized. From 2005 to 2009 he was Executive Secretary of the Electronic Geophysical Year, and from 2010 to 2017 he was an Editor of Geophysical Research Letters. He also participated in the MARS/MAVEN mission development of three instruments and the operations center. Dr. Peterson was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2015 and is currently an editor of Perspectives of Earth and Space Scientists. He is the author of over 250 papers, but because he is formally retired from the Universit;y of Colorado and not faculty member access to these papers in the LASP standard format is not available. For a list of Dr. Peterson papers see: https://lasp.colorado.edu/timas/resources/principal-investigator/petersons-publications/

Additional Information

University of Colorado, Boulder, Ph.D., 1971
University of Colorado, Boulder, B.S., 1964