Atmospheric Integrated Research at University of California, Irvine

Michael E. Gebel

May 28, 1969 – February 7, 2006

Michael Gebel was born in Elmhurst, Illinois to Sandy and Earl Gebel. His family, including two sisters, Erin and Amy, moved to California when Mike was 12 years old. He attended California State University, Los Angeles as an undergraduate and was a member of Professor Scott Nickolaisen’s research group, where he became interested in atmospheric chemistry.

He and Jennifer Bentson were married on June 11, 1995. Jennifer was a strong and enthusiastic supporter of the long hours, hard work, and commitment it takes for a Ph.D., which Mike completed in the Department of Chemistry at UCI in 2000. The dedication to his thesis reads:

To Jennifer, whose beautiful smile warmly greets me each day… “I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham if I thought I could see your face”, from a song by Emmylou Harris & Bill Danof.

Mike’s thesis research in the Finlayson-Pitts group involved measurement of the uptake of trace atmospheric pollutants on sea salt and its components using a Knudsen cell interfaced to a quadrupole mass spectrometer. At the start of his research, it was known that the uptake and reactions of trace gases with sea salt aerosol had the potential to impact the oxidative balance and overall chemistry in the troposphere; however, the kinetics of these reactions were not well known. This was in part due to the difficulty in determining the true surface area of the salt particles that was exposed to the gas in powdered samples. During his thesis research, Mike developed a method for addressing this issue using one or a fraction of a layer of particles with well-defined sizes. This resolved major discrepancies among previous studies, and is now an accepted method for such measurements.

Mike had a deep commitment to improving our environment, and after earning his Ph.D. he joined the California Air Resources Board where he was promoted to manager of the Organic Analysis Section. In February, 2006, Mike had an accidental fall at his home that tragically ended his life at the age of 36 years. In accord with his wishes, his organ donation has allowed six others to live. At the request of his wife, Jennifer, an annual graduate student award in his honor has been established at UCI.

Mike was a wonderful scientist and a terrific person, whose warmth, wit, positive outlook on life, and concern for his fellow man and the environment were evident in everything he did. As a graduate student, he spent many hours in a combined library/meeting room such as this, where many scientific issues were discussed and lifelong friendships were forged. It thus seems particularly appropriate to dedicate this as The Michael E. Gebel and Jennifer Bentson-Gebel Library.

Dedicated on April 27, 2006.

V. Ara Apkarian, Chair, Department of Chemistry
Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts, Professor of Chemistry & Director, AirUCI
Ronald J. Stern, Dean of Physical Sciences
Written for the dedication of the Michael E. and Jennifer B. Gebel Library of AirUCI

Michael E. Gebel Award

The Michael E. Gebel Award is presented each year at the UCI Department of Chemistry's annual Edward K.C. Lee dinner. Jennifer Bentson-Gebel established this award to memorialize his life and accomplishments. Mike had a deep commitment to improving our environment and hence chose to work for CARB, although he had many other options at considerably higher salary. Mike worked for a period of time between obtaining his B.S. from Cal-State LA and joining our graduate program at UCI. It was something of a financial struggle in graduate school, particularly in the first several years, and an award would have helped significantly at this time. As a result, Jennifer has indicated a strong preference that this award go to a second year graduate student working in environmental chemistry and who has had a period of work before continuing on to graduate school. The first award was presented in 2007. The 2008 Gebel Award was presented to Jonathan Bass and Freddy Toledo.