September 28, 2018

FMU dedicates David M. Peterson nuclear lab

FMU dedicates David M. Peterson nuclear lab

Francis Marion University’s nuclear physics laboratory has been named in honor of the man whose hard work and leadership made the facility a vital piece of the University’s science curriculum.

At a dedication ceremony Friday at the McNair Science Building, which houses the lab, FMU officials unveiled a plaque naming the lab the David M. Peterson Nuclear Physics Lab Sponsored by Duke Energy.

The lab is a critical piece of FMU’s highly respected health physics programs, which turns out more radiation protection specialists than any facility in the southeast. It affords undergraduate students the opportunities for hands-on research and experimentation in their field.

The lab opened in early 2000s but underwent a significant re-design and refurbishment in 2007-08, thanks to a generous grant from Duke Energy. Peterson, a health physics specialist, designed the facility.

Dr. Fred Carter, FMU’s president, said the naming of the lab after Peterson was appropriate given his connection to the facility.

“David had four real loves at FMU,” said Carter. “He loved his faculty, his physics students and his physics department. … And he really loved that lab.”

At Friday’s ceremony, Carter also announced that FMU and the FMU Educational Foundation were jointly completing the endowment of the David Peterson Scholarship for physics students, and that the first scholarship from those funds would be awarded in January. The scholarship was created at the time of Peterson’s death in 2017.

Peterson was an FMU faculty member for 38 years and the chair of the FMU Physics and Engineering Department from 2001-16.  Under his leadership, the department’s academic programs grew, through the addition of astronomy and industrial engineering. Prior to that, Peterson was instrumental in developing the health physics program from its infancy.

Peterson was revered by students who remember him for the excellence and professionalism he demanded, but also for his patience as a tutor.  One of his favorite activities was teaching students about X-ray and gamma ray spectroscopy in the nuclear laboratory he helped design — the lab which, fittingly, was named for him today.

Peterson was selected as the J. Lorin Mason Distinguished professor at FMU in 1995, FMU’s highest faculty honor. He was a member of Sigma Pi Sigma, the American Physical Society and the Health Physics Society; and served on the governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council.

Peterson, a native of Manchester, England, received a B.Sc (with honors) in Physics from London University and a Ph.D in Physics from N.C. State University.