Posted: November 23, 2021

(Credit to: Hailey Reiss) Dr. Jeffrey Peters is an accomplished researcher who manages to serve the university and his students well through his research and involvement while also spending much-needed time with his family.

In addition to the research he completes as a faculty member in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Peters also teaches, participates in service, serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Toxicological Sciences (the official journal of the Society of Toxicology), serves as the chair of Penn State’s bio-safety committee, and even serves as the Deputy Director of the Penn State Cancer Institute. Even with his undoubtedly busy schedule, Dr. Peters offered me the chance to speak with him and get the inside view of his fascinating research.

In the lab, Peters’ research focuses on peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), which are found in all mammals. The specific focus of the laboratory is on PPARβ/δ at the moment; however, the lab has examined the effects of all three different types of PPARs in the past.

Peters explains how at present, he and his lab are trying to figure out “what the receptors are doing in normal cells and then…try to figure out how we can use that information to specifically target cancer cells”.

Ideally, Peters’ hopes that his research will identify compounds that function through the receptor of interest, the PPARβ/δ. Potentially, these findings will have great benefit to the scientific and medical community.

“What we want is to take our findings to the next level and help people. And that’s really what it’s about,” Peters explains regarding the goal of his research.

In his research, Peters particularly enjoys the collegial nature of the department and the fact that he gets to use interdisciplinary science for his studies. He believes that the interdisciplinary nature of his education is important to the success of his research program.
The path to conducting this research on PPARs was not always linear for Dr. Peters. In fact, he had originally intended to become a restaurant manager, but in the end, he pursued nutritional toxicology after being encouraged to attend graduate school by a graduate student who was a teaching assistant in one of his college science courses. His interests in nutritional toxicology were sparked because he wanted to understand how dietary components worked in cells—in other words, how diet helped cells maintain homeostasis. His interdisciplinary approach to research through his background in nutrition is useful because it requires understanding of not only physiological chemistry, but also physiology, two disciplines that are key to understanding how cells work.

Peters is looking forward to seeing how molecular biology and related fields will change even in the next 10 years. His opinion regarding the cell is that there will be a much better understanding of its inner workings in the future. He thinks that a greater understanding of genetics and metabolism will allow for a better understanding of the heterogeneity of humans.
When he is not in the lab, Peters can be found spending time with his family in several ways such as camping or attending his children’s sporting events. He is also a fond of nature, and in particular birds and spending time outdoors.
For more information on current research and relevant happenings in his lab, you can consult his lab website. Peters encourages interested undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-docs to reach out to him if they are interested in this research.

Peters Lab Website: