Anna Gerrits ’15: From Geochemistry to Renewable Energy

January 7, 2020
Amanda Nagy
Woman hiking in mountains.
Anna Gerrits conducted geology field work in Italy for her master's research. Photo credit: Courtesy of Anna Gerrits

Anna Gerrits ’15 is using geologic concepts every day in her new role as a renewable energy developer for Galehead Development in Boston. 

As an undergraduate geology major, Gerrits worked with Professor Zeb Page on a research project modeling oxygen fugacity in metamorphic rocks, which she started in her second year. Gerrits studied blueschist and eclogite rocks from the Franciscan Complex in California and modeled changes in oxygen fugacity in those rocks to better understand the history of the rocks through the subduction process. 

“During my time working with Professor Zeb Page, I was able to travel to California to collect samples, analyze samples in lab facilities at the University of Michigan, and present my research at a national geologic conference. These research experiences really sparked my interest in metamorphic petrology, thermodynamics, and geochemistry, subjects I chose to study for my master of science degree at Boston College.”

Gerrits recently graduated from the master’s program in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at Boston College. For her master’s research, she worked with Professor Ethan Baxter in the Boston College Center for Isotope Geochemistry, which focuses on geochronology or petrochronology, the study of dating rocks, events, or geologic processes by analyzing radiogenic isotopes.  

“My research did not involve geochronology, but it incorporated clean lab chemical methods developed by Dr. Baxter and his lab group to help “clean” or rid garnets, the mineral I studied, of inclusions, which are pieces of other minerals trapped inside the garnet,” Gerrits says. “During my master’s research, I also conducted lab work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Durham University in Durham, England, and I collected blueschist and eclogite rocks samples during fieldwork in Italy and Switzerland.”

Picture of Anna Gerrits.
Anna Gerrits

At Oberlin, Gerrits double majored in geology and religion. She says her undergraduate experience taught her the fundamentals of geology and scientific research, how to write and communicate, and how to think critically and make important decisions. 

“Almost everything about my time at Oberlin prepared me for graduate work and my current position working as a project manager,” Gerrits says. “These skills prepared me for life after Oberlin, and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of the Oberlin community and to learn not only from my professors, but also from my peers.”

In her new position, Gerrits is helping to develop large utility-scale solar farms across the United States. “I use geology and geologic concepts every day in my role as a renewable energy developer, and I’m proud to be a part of the transition to renewable generated energy in the U.S.”

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