Interview by Claire Tucker, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Office of Advancement
Rob Paulsen, M.S., Environmental Health, ’13
Rob Paulsen did not always know that his passion was ergonomics. But during his Environmental Health Master’s program at Colorado State University, Rob discovered — and fell for — the discipline through a combination of classes, extracurricular experience, and relentless networking. Now, Rob has his dream job as an ergonomist for Tesla, helping to ensure workers’ safety as they build electric vehicles.
From English to ergonomics
“Environmental health and especially ergonomics were not always on my radar. I studied English and philosophy in college, but always retained an interest in the health and science disciplines. After several years working, I chose the Environmental Health Master’s program because of its strong applied science training with lots of flexibility to tailor my career to my interests.
“My experience, once in the program, was what really blew me away. I had wonderful professors like Drs. David Gilkey and John Rosecrance, who helped to root me in both the academic foundations and the practical skills of environmental health practitioners. I gravitated towards ergonomics specifically because it was so closely linked to the day-to-day job satisfaction, comfort, and worker safety. The CSU program gave me the opportunity to work on ergonomics and safety problem-solving across all types of industries — mechanized dairy farming, cheese manufacturing, poultry processing, beer brewing, and ATV use in agriculture, to name a few.”
Problem-solving on the line
“Working at Tesla is a dream position for me. Every day is different, but my purpose is the same: setting the conditions to achieve and sustain healthy high performance for Tesla workers. Building cars requires thousands of dynamic and complex tasks, requiring a great level of skill and attention from the assembly associates, machine operators, and all levels of engineering. My job is to work hand-in-hand with production and engineering teams to minimize the impact of existing health and safety risks, as well as help to eliminate future hazards through changes to the product, equipment, and processes.
“It has been my privilege to lead ergonomics problem-solving for Tesla’s newest product and assembly lines. I am incredibly proud to see our engineering teams designing vehicle components and equipment with ergonomics in mind from the beginning. Working closely with the assembly employees throughout the process, I know they feel the same way.”
To the next generation
“I feel lucky to be where I am, but I think it is important to remember that you make your own luck by putting yourself out there. If you have the bandwidth, say ‘yes’ to opportunities that expand your skill set and your network. You never know with whom you are going to connect when you put yourself out there, and you just might find your passion on the way.”