Melissa Regester, Ph.D. has been with Vantage for seven years and is our Research and Data Science Lead.

Q: What is the most important room in your home?

A: My favorite would have to be the kitchen. I love cooking and I especially love actual hardcover cookbooks. The kitchen just brings everyone together for some fun and obviously tasty food. I have so much fun cooking pistachio-crusted lamb chops, salmon, and even paella! Also, my favorite chili is from Skyline Chili (huge in Ohio where I used to live) and I have perfected a copycat recipe of it! It is such a great winter dish for Chicago.

Q: What did you want to be when you were small?

A: I wanted to be many things! I wanted to be a lawyer, an astronaut, even a forensic psychologist! But my favorite is a football scout for the Miami Dolphins. Given what I do now, if Mike McDaniel reads this and is ever looking for a leadership/team specialist, call me!

Q: What is the best gift you have been given?

A: Oh gosh. This is a hard one. I’ve been given so many amazing gifts, but I would say the best gifts haven’t been tangible. They have been friendships, love, even experiences. Quality time is one of my love languages; an amazing gift would be just that!

Q: If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?

A: Not forgetting Spanish! My first language was Spanish and as I was learning English, I did my best to focus on that and I didn’t continue to speak Spanish. I wish I had kept it up so I could still speak it fluently. I can understand most of it now, but speaking it back becomes more challenging for me.

Q: What’s your favorite family tradition?

A: I absolutely love Passover, which is a Jewish holiday. For as long as I can remember we all head to Minnesota where my aunt and uncle live and celebrate there. The entire family comes together, we eat amazing food, and celebrate an important holiday!

Q: If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

A: Ha! I love this question. Probably “Careful, will clean up your plate before you are done eating” or “Warning, does not know how to whisper.”

Q: What’s the most fun you’ve had this week?

A: I will totally cheat and go back a couple of weeks. We recently ended our honeymoon going to Santorini and it was such an amazing experience. The views were breathtaking. The first day we went on a boat to a volcanic hot spring and went snorkeling. The next day we rented an ATV and drove around the island eating lots of fresh seafood and Greek salads! Our hotel had actually double-booked us, and we were upgraded for free to a room that included our own private hot tub and pool. As you can imagine, leaving paradise was the hardest!

Q: What’s the last movie you went to see?

A: The last movie I saw in theaters was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Fun fact, Judy Blume knew my grandparents and they are featured in her books! For this movie, the character Laura Danker was based off my late grandmother, Linda Hornik. She loved going to the movies, so I had to go see it for her with a big bucket of popcorn!

Q: What childhood activity do you wish you could still do now?

A: I was a competitive swimmer. I went to the Junior Olympics a few times back in the day. I would swim twice a day, every single day. It was exhausting but I loved it. I would love to get back into it and swim some laps! What a great workout.

Q: Would you rather explore a new planet or the deepest parts of the ocean and why?

A: A new planet, for sure! I love space and everything about it. While getting my Ph.D., I was fortunate enough to help lead a NASA-funded project that looked at team dynamics. It was an incredible experience that incorporated my love for space and teams!