Peterson is a Professor Emeritus of physics at the University of Colorado and a former Jefferson Science Fellow for the U.S. Department of State. After receiving his undergraduate (1961) and graduate (1966) degrees in Physics at the University of Washington, he was an instructor at Princeton University and on the research faculty at Yale University. His research interests have covered many arenas of nuclear physics, including nuclear astrophysics, nuclear reactions, nuclear fission, and applications of nuclear reactions to computer memory elements. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen (Niels Bohr Institute), the University of Tokyo, and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He is a Foreign Fellow of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Physical Society.