Charles Peterson was a professor, interim department chair for Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and interim dean at the University of Idaho. He began researching vegetable oil for diesel fuel in 1979. Now, Peterson is recognized worldwide as the pioneer in biodiesel research. Peterson’s work in developing biodiesel as an alternative fuel earned him and the University of Idaho the 2002 Innovator Award, which was presented on August 27, 2002 in Boise. He has collaborated with over 49 coauthors from 1965-2006 and currently has 18 publications.
Some of Peterson's major accomplishments include teaching awards, research accomplishments in harvesting and storage of sugar beets and potatoes; equipment for erosion control in the Palouse; equipment for precision agriculture; often considered a pioneer in biodiesel (vegetable alternative to diesel fuel) research and development in the US. He is a registered Professional Engineer, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Fellow; two patents. Significant Recognitions Include: Phi Kappa Phi, Distinguished Faculty Award, 1997; Idaho Business Review Innovator of the Year Award, 2002; Idaho Society of Professional Engineers Excellence in Engineering Education Award, 2006.
Peterson enjoyed living in Moscow and says it is a good place to raise a family. Working at the University of Idaho was a stimulating experience for him. He enjoyed the students and the many faculty and staff that had come and gone over the years.