Friday, October 14, 2016

Racetrack Surface Research Professor Mick Peterson Will Head to the University of Kentucky in 2017

Professor Mick Peterson took a turn as a speaker at the Hoofcare@Saratoga series at the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, New York. (Thank you!) After years in the engineering department at the University of Maine, he's taking a new, wider-focus ag/equine science faculty director post at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. (Hoofcare and Lameness file photo)

He's the man who reads hoofprints...and he might be only person who can tell you as much about the way the footing or racing surface was imprinted as a farrier can tell you about the horse and the shoe that made the print.

He's the professor who crossed the new bridge between racetrack surface soil science and sport horse arena performance science, and collaborated with researchers around the world on studies that have moved ahead both the safety of horses and their ability to perform at their best.

He's the man who can make even a lecture with a title like "hoof soil interface measurement" an enjoyable and interesting learning experience. He has taught us about ground-penetrating radar, shared his affection for the biomechanical hoof impact tester, and designed a real-time online racetrack surface condition monitoring database and reporting service.

And now he has a new position.

This week, Professor Michael "Mick" Peterson, MS, PhD, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine at Orono has been named director of the University of Kentucky’s Agriculture Equine Programs and Dickson Professor of Equine Science and Management. He will start in January 2017.

Professor Peterson has left his own footprints on racetracks around the world. Here he is at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of Mick Peterson)
In addition to leading University of Kentucky Agriculture Equine Programs, Peterson will also conduct research on the biomechanics and mechanical properties of living tissues as they relate to musculoskeletal disease detection and prevention. His teaching responsibilities will include undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of biomechanics, instrumentation and/or mechanics of materials related to equine athletes in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

“Since its founding, the equine programs at UK has become one of the premier equine programs in the world. The potential for future growth in teaching, research and outreach is tremendous, which can greatly benefit the equine industry and the university,” Peterson said. “I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting program and look forward to working with a broad range of stakeholders.”

At the University of Maine, Peterson served as a mechanical engineering professor. His research has linked traditional understanding of engineering mechanics and materials to the biomechanics of animals. His research emphasis has been on the manner in which dynamic response can be used to characterize materials.

During the course of his career, Peterson has worked on a range of equine and animal biomechanics topics, including:

  • the impact of exercise on bone density; 
  • the development of biomechanical models;
  • durability of cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) epidermis; 
  • the measurement of inertial properties of the equine forelimb; 
  • biomechanics of whale interaction with fishing gear; 
  • cetacean acoustic response; 
  • marine hydroacoustics; and 
  • the kinematics of equine gait on treadmills and tracks.

The University of Kentucky has an agricultural station outside the city of Lexington, not far from the Kentucky Horse Park. (University of Kentucky file photo)

According to Peterson, his greatest passion is the understanding of racing and equestrian surfaces. Originating in work 20 years ago on a new medical imaging technique, this work has gradually grown from an interest in the effect of exercise on bone remodeling to a focus on applying concepts from manufacturing quality control to improved racing surface consistency for the protection of horses and riders.

“The fact that we are hiring our first full-time director reflects how the program has grown and evolved. We are privileged to attract such a prominent leader to this position; Mick’s passion for the equine industry and this program is genuine and is matched by our faculty, staff and students,” said Nancy Cox, dean of the college. “We will be able to take our service to this signature industry to another level under his leadership and couldn’t be more thrilled by what the future holds for this program.”

Peterson collaborated with Professor C. Wayne McIlwraith at Colorado State University to found the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, a nonprofit organization led by Peterson that is supported by the horse racing industry. The laboratory provides research, testing and materials characterization services for the industry.

Before joining the University of Maine as a faculty member in 1999, Peterson was an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado State University; he also served as a post-doctoral research associate and instructor at Northwestern University.

Peterson earned his doctorate and master’s degrees from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute. He also completed additional graduate work at Yale University, Cornell University and the University of Connecticut in material science, mathematics, mechanics and signal processing.

He has had additional academic appointments and affiliations with the Swedish University of Agriculture, in Uppsala, Sweden; the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, England; and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

He currently serves on the Jockey Club Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Surfaces Committee and as executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory. Peterson has published 80 journal articles, three book chapters, 81 conference proceedings, presented 67 additional papers at conferences and has received six patents.

Official information from the University of Kentucky, written by Holly Wiemers, was included in this article.

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