School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

Peter Ferguson

March 2009

It’s clear that Peter Ferguson doesn’t come from a traditional science background. He’s clean-cut and a snappy dresser, wearing tailored clothes and fashionably pointed shoes to work. Peter is a qualified doctor and is currently doing a PhD with Dr Richard Tilley’s nanoparticles research group. He studied at Otago University’s Dunedin School of Medicine and had been working for three years towards becoming a physician, when a talk at a “quantum dot meeting at the train station” caught his attention.

The talk, about silicon quantum dots, was given by Dr Tilley at the 1st annual Quantum Dot meeting, held at Victoria University’s rooms at the Wellington Railway Station in 2006. Peter was inspired to get involved with the exciting research he saw Dr Tilley doing – studying the various uses nanoparticles can have in biological systems. His offer of part-time research assistance grew to an MSc project and has since become a PhD; which Peter is now in the second year of.

The project brings together some diverse scientific expertise and Peter’s medical background is ideal for holding this strongly collaborative project together. The nanoparticles are made and characterised at the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria University, using technologies such as NMR imaging and electron microscopy. The cell biology and in vivo trials follow, at the Malaghan Institute for Medical Research and funding is from Dr Tilley’s NERF grant, “Magnetic Nanoparticles”.

Peter delights in talking about the research he’s involved in, as if telling a patient about their diagnosis and upcoming treatment, and his enthusiasm for the cutting-edge project is infectious. He plans to return to a research-based medical career in pathology at the end of his PhD.

Peter is enjoying the way the project is about “chemistry, physics and biology, all in large doses”. I can’t help but smile at his medical terminology.

Find out more about quantum dots and Peter’s project here.