Mike Bland ’02 Receives First Decade Award

Posted on May 29th, 2012 by

Mike Bland Picture

Mike and Jenny Bland with Chuck Niederriter at the Alumni Banquet

Mike Bland physics and geology class of 2002, was awarded one of two First Decade Awards by the Gustavus Alumni Association at the Alumni Banquet on Saturday, May 26. He was introduced by Chuck Niederriter with the citation below:

It is my great pleasure tonight to introduce Dr. Michael Bland as a recipient of this year’s First Decade Award.  I might note, the ninth from the physics department.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Mike was an excellent student during his years at Gustavus.  He took almost all of the courses that the physics and geology departments offered, completing degrees in both programs. I can still recall having Mike in Classical Physics I where his hard work and innate ability first became evident.  He had the top scores on two of the four hour exams in a class that was very competitive.  He went on to do very well in his course work and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 2002.  We would have inducted him into Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, if the college had a chapter at that time. We did ask him to return in 2010 to speak at the induction banquet.


Mike was also involved in research while he was a student, working with my colleague, Steve Mellema on optical scattering experiments and with Jim Welch in geology.  And he had a summer internship at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, work he shared with students and faculty the following fall in at least one talk to the society of physics students.


Mike also worked for the physics and geology departments as a laboratory assistant and was named departmental assistant by the physics department in his senior year.

After Gustavus, Mike found a way to combine his interests in physics and geology by studying planetary science at the university of Arizona. After earning his Ph.D. there in 2008, he took a post-doctoral research associate position at Washington University in St. Louis where he works in planetary geophysics.  There he uses his expertise in a variety of numerical modeling techniques to study tectonics and thermal evolution of the planets and satellites of our Solar System. I guess you could say his work is out of this world.  At least NASA thinks so, because they continue to fund his research.

Mike is an active member of the planetary science community giving many invited seminars, sitting on and chairing NASA funding review panels, and serving as a reviewer of submitted research articles and book chapters.

Mike has published nine important scientific papers in his short career and contributed at least 25 papers at conferences.  He already has three successful research grants and has given at least 10 invited seminars on his work at places like Stony Brook University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. In fact, Mike came back to Gustavus in 2010 to speak at our Sigma Pi Sigma banquet on the recommendation of JPL scientist Bob Pappalardo, who visited Gustavus as a Harlow Shapley lecturer. Mike has received a number of other awards for his work and is a member of the American Geophysical Union and the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society.

Mike, my colleagues and I salute you for your accomplishments, and we have great confidence that you will continue to do important work in planetary science. We fully expect you to return Gustavus some year when the topic of the Nobel Conference is planetary science or life in the universe. Some of our speakers believe that being a member of a Nobel Conference panel gives them a leg up on the competition in Sweden. I would think being a graduate who spent a significant amount of time working in Nobel Hall, you would have twice the advantage. When the time comes…

President Ohle, I present Michael Bland, Class of 2002, for a First Decade Award.


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