At a Glance
Year: ‘20, '22
Ph.D. Program(s): Earth System Science
Activities: Teaching assistant
Why the Ph.D. program? “I enrolled in the Ph.D. program because I loved the research I was doing and wanted to continue to develop those skills."
The Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EEAS) has become an extended part of Ericka Boudreau’s family.
The Earth System Science Ph.D. student started taking courses at UMass Lowell in 2015 when her two children were old enough to attend school themselves.
“The EEAS department has known my kids for years now,” Boudreau ’20, ’22 says. “My kids have pretty much grown up on this campus.”
As Boudreau pursued her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental science with a geoscience option, her son and daughter became acquainted with the EEAS faculty and staff. Boudreau’s professors welcomed her children into the classroom when they had a snow day, and EEAS staff assistant Erica Gavin would watch them if Boudreau needed to take a test. EEAS Assoc. Teaching Prof. Lori Weeden also gave Boudreau the resources she needed to homeschool her children during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s great having that support system,” Boudreau says. “I also have a lot of family support. That’s 100% essential and the reason I’ve been able to return to school.”
Boudreau, who earned an associate degree in holistic massage therapy from Nashua Community College, initially enrolled at UML as a biology major, driven by her love of science. Before long, however, she switched to environmental science, where she found her passion for geology.
“My first geology course was geochemistry with Assoc. Prof. Rich Gaschnig, and I was like, ‘I’m sold,’” she says.
While an undergraduate, Boudreau approached Gaschnig about getting involved in research. He invited her to join one of his projects that looked at determining the origin of rocks on the West Coast.
Boudreau started processing rock samples sent to Gaschnig before venturing out to Gold Beach, Oregon, in December 2019 to collect her own samples.
“It was amazing,” she says. “You learn all this stuff in the classroom and in textbooks, but being able to go out and see it is completely different.”
Boudreau presented her research at Geological Society of America conferences in Portland, Oregon and Denver, where she met other researchers working on similar projects.
“It was cool to connect with people that were interested in hearing what I had to say,” she says.
For Boudreau’s Ph.D. research, she is working on chemically characterizing the Idaho Batholith and its sediments. She collected rock samples in Idaho after serving as a teaching assistant for Gaschnig’s Geology of North America course, where students traveled to Idaho and Montana to conduct fieldwork.
Boudreau looks forward to growing as a geologist while working her way toward becoming a triple River Hawk.
“I enrolled in the Ph.D. program because I loved the research I was doing and wanted to continue to develop those skills,” she says.