Employee Spotlight: Rayna Ellison

Meet ORAU employee Rayna Ellison. Rayna is an ORAU contractor working under the National Student Services Contract (NSSC) at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As an Environmental Research Assistant in Ada, OK, Rayna supports EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) and the Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response (CESER) along with the Groundwater Characterization & Remediation Division (GCRD). Rayna’s work with both CESER and GCRD is critical to support the laboratory's research and technical assistance missions.

CESER’s focus is to plan, coordinate, and conduct an applied, customer-driven, national research and development program to improve decision-making by EPA, federal, state, tribal, and local agencies when faced with challenging environmental problems in the built environment. Within CESER, the Groundwater Characterization & Remediation Division (GCRD) plans, coordinates, and conducts an applied, national-scale, customer-driven research program to provide data, tools, models, strategies, and technologies to protect and restore groundwater.

Rayna’s work with the CESER team includes analyzing water quality with high-grade technological machinery and working in the metal lab at the Kerr Lab Research facility. In addition, she recently completed digesting and analyzing 97 soil samples for lead isotopes. The results helped demonstrate the benefits of collaborating with others.

When asked what her favorite part of working at EPA has been so far, Rayna said, “getting to learn other ways to analyze water quality with high-grade technological machinery. These machines are not the easiest to learn however, the experience is most definitely worth it as well as intriguing.”


Rayna graduated from Oklahoma State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Water Resources. She also minored in soil science. The academic experiences that led her to EPA include: 1) working as a student worker on the Oklahoma State University campus for two research entities, 2) completing higher-level education courses at OSU to extend her knowledge of environmental problems and solution methods - in particular Soil Science courses and an Environmental Problem-Solving course which led to her leading a well water quality program across the state of Oklahoma as her senior capstone project, and 3) completing a two-year Environmental Biotechnology STEM Academy at the Pontotoc Technology Center. In addition, she competed in elective science fair courses focused on wastewater treatment in the category of Environmental Science at the Intel Science and Engineering Festival for two years in the states of Arizona and California.

Fun Facts: Rayna enjoys hanging out with her Australian cattle dog named Lucy, reading, watching DVDs, and gardening.