Dr Peter Summerfield

Student spotlight details

Following a career in the Global Automotive and Aerospace industries, Peter sought the challenge of studying Nanotechnology in retirement.

'I am one of those individuals that left school at 16 with one O Level and was unemployed for a period of time. From these beginnings, both my academic and career journeys started. In the early days, it involved going to night school three evenings a week after a full day’s work, but this experience developed a passion for me in lifelong learning. Over a period of years, the qualifications came, the career accelerated and ultimately, this involved senior executive positions in both the Global Automotive and Aerospace industries.

'Following retirement in my late 50s, the education journey continued, with a variety of courses, combined with an ongoing lecturing involvement at Warwick Business School, where I am now an Associate Fellow.

'It was always a dream of mine to study at Oxford and as the time became available, I looked at the options in terms of part-time study. One course above all others stood out for me: the Department for Continuing Education's Postgraduate Certificate in Nanotechnology. One of my great passions in life, and it sounds slightly arrogant, has been to be at the forefront of change in the industries I have worked in and for me, Nanotechnology fitted this passion and interest perfectly.

'To put things into context, I was 69 when I started the Certificate, and I decided that I had to take the course seriously and undertook a number of initiatives before starting at Oxford. These included taking refresher Maths lessons in applied calculus and background reading in Applied Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

'Once I commenced on Module 1, the Wider Context of Nanotechnology, my confidence in the ability to cope with the course grew and the importance of ethics certainly came to the fore in this module. It would be fair to say that I found Module 2, the Fundamental Science of Nanotechnology, particularly challenging, but with many, many hours of hard work, the understanding came. Once I moved on to Module 3, the Fundamental Characterisations of Nanotechnology, the basic principles were now in place and I really enjoyed the module. Taking a detached view on everything, overall, I found the course material intellectually stimulating and at times exciting.

'Now I am in my early 70s, the journey continues. My interest is to help high tech business spin outs from Universities into the marketplace. An interesting feature I have found here is that because I have now completed the Postgraduate Certificate, I have the confidence and skillset to work with academic professionals across a number of departments with respect to business spin outs, including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering and Business Studies.

'Finally, my advice to anyone, particularly those of my age group, who are considering the course is: don’t be deterred by the potential challenges involved. My experience taught me that a mixture of professional and extremely supportive academic staff, combined with wonderfully talented young people in my peer group, helped me achieve the result I did, which was an overall Distinction for the PGC.

'Both the family and I are so proud of this result and all I can say to the team at Oxford is a huge thank you: it was a great and memorable journey.'

Learn more: