Degree: Ph.D. in Geosciences
Thesis: "Geochemical Investigations of Continental Rift Magmatism: A case Study in East Africa's Western Rift"
Adviser: Tanya Furman
Erica Pitcavage came to Penn State in 2014. She graduated from Whitman College with a B.A. in geosciences in 2011, where she carried out research on the effects of soil chemistry variations on vineyards of the Columbia Basin, Washington. She subsequently worked as an environmental consultant, and then saw the light of graduate school shining in her future. While at Penn State, Erica received the Hiroshi and Koya Ohmoto Research Scholarship in 2018, the Richard Standish Good graduate scholarship in 2017, the Barry Voight Volcano Hazards scholarship in 2017, the Leblanc fellowship in 2016 and the Knopf memorial scholarship in 2015. Her research has taken her on field work in Rwanda and Kenya.
Erica’s research focused on a suite of mafic lavas from southwestern Uganda, where she wrangled complex geochemical data to determine their petrogenetic history. Her contributions include new understandings of lithospheric removal in active zones of continental rifting. During her time at Penn State, Erica co-developed new dissolution techniques for major and trace element analysis, and mastered the electron microprobe. She also conducted isotopic analysis at the Carnegie Institutions in Washington D.C. as well as high-precision Ar-Ar dating of tiny fragments of basaltic groundmass and He isotopic analysis on olivine grains at Oregon State University. She is currently a post-doctoral scholar and TIMS lab manager at the University of Houston.
Erica is an outstanding teacher and logistician as well, serving as head TA for field camp groups of over 50 students in the summers of 2017 and 2018. She also traveled to South Africa as an assistant instructor for an REU experience under the auspices of AfricaArray in 2015. Erica received the departmental Graduate Teaching Assistant Award in 2017.
In addition to her devotion to research and teaching, Erica is an accomplished long-distance runner. She competed in several marathons, and captained the Rothrocks for Jocks relay team for the Rothrock Mountainback 50-mile ultramarathon.