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John W. Peters

John W. Peters

John W. Peters

Department Chair


Research Areas: Biochemistry
(405) 325-4812
SLSRC 1005

B.S., 1989, University of Oklahoma 
Ph.D., 1995, Virginia Tech
Postdoc, 1995-1997, California Institute of Technology 

Research Keywords: 
electron transfer, energy, agriculture, oxidation-reduction reactions, nitrogen

Biological electron transfer reactions are of paramount importance in the metabolism. My research focuses on the study of the fundamental electron transfer reactions in biology that are relevant to energy and agriculture. The lab uses a variety of different approaches to examine the ecology, physiology, and biochemistry of pathways and reactions that involve oxidation-reduction reactions.

The availability of fixed nitrogen limits global nutrition. We study the process of biological nitrogen fixation that occurs in diverse groups of microorganisms and is an enzymatic process by which atmospheric nitrogen is converted to ammonia. Through structural and spectroscopic work we study the catalytic mechanism of the enzyme nitrogenase that catalyzes this process. We are also involved in examining redox and energy homeostasis and regulation in model nitrogen fixing organisms and engineering microorganisms to express high levels of the enzymes and excrete ammonia. This work is aimed in the long term to reduce our dependency on the use of nitrogenous fertilizers in agriculture.

Energy can be stored in H-H, C-H, or N-H bonds and fuel compounds having these bonds can be produced in all forms of life through electron transfer reactions. We are examining the fundamentals of biological electron reactions as it relates to control of electron flow in organisms to enhance biofuel production.

Awards & Honors

Associates Second Century Presidential Professorship, 2022, University of Oklahoma
CAHNRS Faculty Excellence in Research Award, 2021, Washington State University
Elected Member of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 2021
Cozzarelli Prize from the National Academy of Sciences, 2020
Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, 2018
Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2017
Cox Family Faculty Excellence Award, 2013, Montana State University 
James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence, 2010, Montana State University
Wiley Award for Meritorious Research, 2006, Montana State University 
Camille Dreyfus Teacher/Scholar Award, 2001
Atorvastatin Research Award, 2000-2002, Pfizer, Inc. 
NIH Postdoc Fellow, Chemistry, 1995-1996, California Institute of Technology
Pratt Animal Nutrition Fellowship, 1989-1990, Virginia Tech