Research Staff Spotlight: Elisa Rega

For this month’s “Staff Spotlight”, we interviewed Elisa Rega, Project Specialist (she/her), in the Emily Huang, Ph.D. Safety Climate Lab. Each month we feature an Institute Staff member and share with the community a behind the scenes through a question and answer session to learn more about their research areas, career path and goals, but most importantly recognize their hard work.

Tell us more about yourself (career path, goals, anything you want us to know, etc.)

Elisa is a native Oregonian who grew up in the Portland Metro Area. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Oberlin College. Previously she conducted research at the National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan, and published articles on creativity training. Elisa also holds a Bachelors of Music in viola performance from Oberlin Conservatory, and a Master of Music in viola performance from the New England Conservatory. In addition to working in research at OHSU, she is a professional musician and educator.

Her launch into research was somewhat serendipitous. She was living in Taiwan teaching both English and music when one of her clients happened to be a psychology professor.  She asked the professor if she could volunteer to work in her lab and soon after was offered a research assistant position helping this professor publish her research. In the previous years, Elisa had received several interviews for science or lab jobs, but hadn’t yet been successful obtaining an offer. It illustrated how sometimes it takes a bit of perseverance, and knowing the right person to get your foot in the door. Not only did Elisa get her foot in the door, but she co-authored a number of publications. This experience assisted Elisa with landing her current job at OHSU. The research she helped get published was particularly interesting to Elisa, as it addressed creativity enhancement, mindful learning, aesthetics, and very  cutting edge interventions including computer game-based training for all ages.

Although Elisa loved living in Taiwan, and misses much about it, she returned to the Portland area after two years. At first, again, she was unsuccessful securing a research job and instead began working in music for North Portland’s Bravo Youth Orchestras, eventually as music director of an ensemble. She recognizes the power of music and has a particular passion for El Sistema inspired programs like Bravo that provide no cost music education for underserved children. Once Elisa began working full-time here at the Institute, she gave up her position at Bravo. She was very appreciative to have the full-time work especially once the pandemic hit, as most artists’ income, including musicians, was particularly negatively impacted. She anticipates eventually going back to school for a doctorate, with a specific interest in creating interventions for working age people. She imagines experimenting with using music and comedy to deliver information as a part of the game-based training movement.

What current research projects are you working on?

Elisa is part of the Safety Climate Lab team, about which many of their exciting projects have been shared previously in this blog. The mission of this lab is working to ensure individuals’ safety, health, and well-being through promoting safety climate and culture in the workplace. Although the team works collaboratively, Elisa is the lead grant writer for the team, and she has been integral to applications for numerous grants, including a Total Worker Health Climate Scale project. She also directly interfaces with clients for about half of her time.  She asserts that her current job is the best job she’s ever had by a landslide.

What do you like most about working for OHSU/Institute/occupational health research?

Elisa particularly enjoys working with clients, such as her recent work with SAIF, Fortis Construction Inc., and the UN on recent safety climate projects. Another project that she found important and satisfying was work collaborating with Oregon Tradeswomen. “They’ve got grit!” Elisa was very impressed by their perseverance and work ethic.

“I love all of the consulting projects,” Elisa shared with me. She added how different this current position is than those she has had in the past. “It’s exciting to interact in the world with people fully encountering real issues and hearing them talk about them and trying to find solutions.”

Elisa loves working with her colleagues at OHSU and passionate clients, all working hard toward a mutual goal. Meeting with leaders from major organizations and corporations who have a lot of influence over peoples’ lives has been particularly important for her. While not everyone may have this skill set, Elisa noted that she enjoys creating spreadsheets, knowing that her work will help people and organizations enact positive changes and programs. While her work in music, such as the moments of concerts are hugely impactful and satisfying, she appreciates knowing about the tangible lasting effects of the team’s safety climate work.

Elisa is also very committed to equity, and was active in the Equity Committee at Bravo Youth Orchestras before becoming active on the Institute’s TIDE (Team for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity) committee. She expresses how important it is to identify and see racism or biased behaviors and understand how to become an ally, especially for those who identify as white, and what this means in action.

What are your favorite hobbies outside of work? Home-life is very important to our health and well-being and is interconnected to our work-life.

Music continues to be a very important part of Elisa’s life. She performs in orchestras such as the Vancouver Symphony, Oregon Easy Symphony, and Symphony Tacoma where she recently won the Assistant Principal Viola position. In addition to performing in multiple orchestras and bands, she is a private music teacher and has a gift for working with both children and adults.

She also seems to have an endless supply of energy, and is a person involved in many projects and fun activities. Elisa sings and plays the sitar as well – is even in a rock band and has sung in weddings across the US and Taiwan. A newer project that Elisa is investigating is producing comedic educational music for adults. She has a website and a few demo songs. Elisa is also a certified yoga instructor, Registered Behavioral Therapist, and most recently is putting energy into a new home.

Thank you Elisa for taking the time to share more about yourself with our Institute, our stakeholders and followers. We know that our time both at work and life outside of work matters.


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