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Astrophysics major named Dean’s Medalist finds inspiration in the natural world

Claire Blaske excels in research — and the sport of curling


Dean's Medalist Claire Blaske, who won a bronze medal in the 2022 USA Curling Club competition, founded the Sun Devil Curling Club at ASU.

May 02, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Claire Blaske’s fascination with the natural world began at an early age when her father, a geologist, would take her on trips to explore the breathtaking beauty of national parks across the United States. Those early experiences ignited a passion within her for the wonders of the universe and inspired her to pursue a career in astrophysics.

“I’ve been interested in studying the natural world and why it is the way it is. Going on trips to national parks, my dad being a geologist, and attending a talk in elementary school on Mars water by my dad’s friend who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory all contributed to my decision to major in astrophysics when I was 11 years old,” said Blaske. “And I’ve been on that path ever since!” 

Throughout her time at Arizona State University, Blaske has been able to pursue her passion for science while also deepening her understanding of geology. Her unique combination of interests has allowed her to explore the connections between Earth and the cosmos, uncovering new insights into the mysteries of the natural world.

Blaske was named the Spring 2023 Dean's Medalist for the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and she is also a student in Barrett, The Honors College, which has selected her as an Outstanding Graduate for Research. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in astrophysics and a minor in geological sciences. 

During her time at ASU, Blaske demonstrated exceptional academic performance, maintaining a 4.0 GPA while excelling in research at ASU and the California Institute of Technology, first-authoring a published scientific paper and presenting at five scientific conferences. She did high-level research on lightning in the atmosphere of Venus for her honors thesis.

She received the ASU President’s Club Scholarship, the Goldwater Scholarship for excellence in STEM research, Universities Space Research Association Distinguished Undergraduate Award and the Dwornik Award Honorable Mention at the 2021 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference hosted by the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Her research projects have centered on heat flows out of metallic cores of exoplanets and the evidence of ice in Martian gullies. Her research work under ASU Assistant Professor Joseph O’Rourke examines the relationship between the atmosphere and the surface of Venus.

In addition to her academic and research work, Blaske founded the School of Earth and Space Exploration Undergraduate Student Council. She mentored first-year students at Camp SESE and was active in outreach activities through the ASU/NASA Space Grant program and the ASU-led NASA Psyche Mission.

Hailing from Grand Ledge, Michigan, she also actively engaged in extracurricular activities, including curling, which she credits as one of the ways she maintains a healthy work/life balance. She founded the Sun Devil Curling Club at ASU and served as its president. She won a bronze medal in the 2022 USA Curling Club competition.

Blaske detailed the importance and prevalence of interdisciplinary work at ASU. She noted that throughout her academic career, she has learned how crucial interdisciplinary collaboration is in research, and how it is truly necessary to work through problems that we don’t understand about our universe.

“Claire embodies all of the wonderful characteristics that we hope to see in all our undergraduate majors. She is inquisitive and motivated, and always open to exploring and learning. Whatever she chooses to do after she graduates from ASU, I am confident that she will excel at it and make us proud,” said Meenakshi Wadhwa, Foundation Professor and director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Blaske will continue her pursuit of geological and planetary studies at Stanford University this fall, where she will be obtaining her PhD in planetary sciences.  

“She is one of the all-around strongest undergraduates that I have met at ASU or anywhere,” O’Rourke said. “Claire is filled with intrinsic motivation and drive, coupled with an increasingly mature understanding of science as a human enterprise — the hallmarks of someone who could have a productive research career,” he added.

Blaske shared some of her thoughts and experiences with ASU News. 

Question: How does it feel to be selected as Dean's Medalist? What does it mean to you

Answer: I am so honored and excited to have been selected as SESE’s Dean’s Medalist this year. 

To me, it represents all my hard work throughout the last four years, taking more credits than required almost every semester on top of at least one research project, and so many other commitments, including my competitive curling career! 

I am grateful for the support of the SESE community and how everyone has contributed to my amazing experience here at ASU. SESE is full of amazing mentors, professors, students, staff and leaders. They are all an inspiration to me! 

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A: There was never really one “aha” moment for me — for as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in studying the natural world and why it is the way it is. Every day I am so excited to be able to work on science problems that we don’t understand about our universe — there is never any end to the discovery, and I love sharing that excitement with the people around me.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: At ASU, I learned how research is so much more interdisciplinary than anyone thinks, and how having a diverse group of people involved in projects is the best way to conduct science. So many people think that science is sitting alone in a room doing research by yourself. But it’s also outreach, communication, education and collaboration! 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the huge amount of opportunities available to students, even as a freshman. Getting involved in research is so accessible! The School of Earth and Space Exploration is also incredibly interdisciplinary, and I knew it was the perfect environment for my variety of interests. Tempe also has an awesome curling club (yes, the sport on ice) at Coyotes Curling Club right down the street.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My Physics 3 professor, Dr. Matthew Baumgart. I was having a difficult time understanding the material on one of our midterms, and after receiving a poor grade on it, I emailed him to ask how I could improve because I thought I had done everything I could to prepare well for the exam. He told me a very simple, but very important piece of advice that I have kept in mind ever since: The worst thing you can do is get discouraged. That class taught me the importance of resiliency and overcoming challenges. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Get involved with the opportunities available to you! Join clubs and intramurals, take extra classes, participate in research, apply for scholarships and internships. Make the most of it, because it will pay off.  Make sure to balance school and life, though. Take up a hobby that's totally unrelated to what you work on. Mine are curling and reading.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: I loved hanging out in the classrooms in the basement of the libraries — they’re great places to get group work done or just work with a bunch of friends. Of course, ISTB4 is my favorite building. There’s so many models and cool stuff going on inside! 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Climate change is the biggest issue facing our planet today. Though $40 million is not enough to solve the climate crisis, it’s a start to install solar panels on every house in the Valley. 

Written by Taylor Hess, marketing digital communications specialist in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and Nicole Greason, director of marketing and public relations for Barrett, The Honors College.

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