Curt Peterson, who has served as West Virginia Universitys interim vice president for research and economic development, was recently appointed to the permanent post.

Peterson is a biologist by training, and one of his specialties is plant growth development.

That resume couldnt be more appropriate for his role at WVU , officials say.

Hes a scientist, and hes an educator and administrator,said E. Jane Martin, interim provost.He knows how to go after funding and keep students engaged in the lab. He knows how to co-exist in so many camps, and were so lucky to have him.

Peterson, who was appointed last week to the post hed been serving on an interim basis since last August, is already in fact a key player in one research project that just might change the Mountain States economic fortunes for the better.

With Peterson leading the charge for WVU , the states flagship University is teaming with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University for a $26 million project thats primarily focused on finding cleaner, more efficient ways to burn coal.

The main idea, of course, said Peterson, is to reduce Americas dependence on foreign oilwhich means West Virginia could be sitting on a literal gold mine made of coal.

And that carries the very real possibility of generating a whole inventory of synthetic fuels derived from coal, he said. Coal to liquids, coal to chemicals, and energy sources produced with coal andbiorenewablesthe components of forests, prairies, marshes and more.

It could change everything,Peterson said.We just have to keep looking at existing energy reserves in new ways. Theres no reason why we cant adapt.

Adapt,has long been the watch-word for Petersons career.

After earning undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees from the University of Oregon, Moorhead State University and the University of Oregon, Peterson became an assistant professor at Auburn University before heading back to the pine trees of Oregon as a plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

From there, he returned to Auburn for more teaching, research and administrative posts before becoming a dean at the University of Northern Colorado.

He was serving as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the Colorado school when WVU tapped him for the research and administrative post here.

Peterson is president of the WVU Research Corp., which was created as a not-for-profit enterprise in 1987. It provides research support services, technical expertise and marketing know-how to grow the Universitys faculty research enterprise.

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