Peters sprints his way to a PhD
September 4, 2009

Peters sprints his way to a PhD

A decision 11 years ago to take up Track and Field Athletics seriously has paid off more than Vincentian Nickie Peters could have bargained for.{{more}}

The 31-year-old resident of Belmont last month successfully defended his thesis on “Neutronic Simulations for a New Approach to Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) and Molybdenum-99 Isotope Production”, thereby gaining him a PhD from the University of Missouri.

His research involved establishing an alternative approach to the current parametric neutron activation analysis and optimising the isotope production capability at the University of Missouri Research Reactor Center (MURR).

A 800 m and 1500 m specialist, Peters said he never had a passion for Athletics until 1998, when President of Team Athletics SVG, then the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Amateur Athletics Association, Keith Joseph, told him that he could get a full athletics scholarship.

Peters’ brief national representation took him to the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia, the Whitsuntide Games in Grenada and the CAC Championships in Venezuela, all in 1998.

Before that, he fiddled with the sport at internal competitions at the St. Vincent Grammar School and the annual Inter Schools’ Championships.

“If I did not decide to do some athletics, it is almost unthinkable,” Peters reflected to SEARCHLIGHT last week Friday at his Belmont home on his achievements thus far.

Following repeated nudges from Joseph, Peters said that he, on the advice of a friend whom he met in Malaysia, went about making applications to several universities.

His progress has been part of a continuum begun his childhood days, as he just wanted to know everything about everything.

After leaving the St. Vincent Community College in 1998, Peters earned entry to Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland, on a full athletics scholarship, in January 1999. Four years later, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and a minor in Computer Science.

In 2006, Peters went a notch up, obtaining his Master’s degree in Nuclear Chemistry from Indiana University. Peters interest in Indiana University was piqued during his undergraduate years while attending Summer internships there, sanctioned by the National Science Foundation.

On a roll, Peters took the bold challenge of starting work on his PhD. Driven by critics who thought he was rushing his doctorate, the humble Peters said: “Never tell a young person that they can’t; they have the energy.”

Self-motivated, Peters completed his PhD in three years, a course he said normally takes about six years.

Modest in speaking about his successes, Peters said that he easily navigated the course, as he was one of the “better students, receiving a Grade Point Average of 4.0 out of a possible 4.0.

Required to pass five cumulative exams of eighteen attempts for continuation in the PhD Programme, he met the requirements with “no problems, five on five tries”.

“When I was studying for my thesis defence, and I remembered the sacrifice my parents made for me, I knew I could not have failed,” Peters said with some contentment.

He credited his parents James and Melena Peters for their input, guidance, handwork and commitment to him and his siblings.

“They brought up eleven of us. I sometimes wonder how they did it,” as he pointed to a piece of land to the back of their house.

“The best way to pay back your parents is to go as far as one can go, and I did that,” he quipped.

Peters said that it was easy to pursue his courses of study, as his relatively short athletics background complemented his academics and vice versa.

“Athletics and academics call for a sharp mind and to be focused,” Peters philosophically reasoned.

Not putting Athletics aside, while at Coppin State Peters had an offer to compete for SVG at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, but opted out, since he did not want to miss a semester of school.

In 2004, he again had the chance to be an Olympian on the Vincentian team. Peters accepted and started to train, but injured a hamstring, which kept him from competing.

Now Dr. Peters, he acknowledges that his field of study will not in the immediate future afford him the opportunity to return home to give service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but holds the land of his birth dear to his heart.

Admitting that his track record could be a selling point for other Vincentians, Dr. Peters stated: “I will help indirectly, making connections and bridges for other young athletes.”

As he embarks on a career path soon in the USA Peters, stated: “No matter how small or insignificant you might be, you can achieve what you want”.

“You must be self driven and force yourself to look for help in the necessary places,” Peters advised current athletes who want to pursue scholarships overseas.