Melissa earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Arizona in 1998. Her doctoral research combined family therapy and behavioral medicine, asking questions related to how patients and their families manage chronic or serious illness. In 1998, Melissa started a 2 ½ year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. During this fellowship, her research and clinical care focused on the psychosocial effects of genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer risk for women and their families. In 2001, Melissa joined the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), overseeing grants programs on behavioral treatments for drug abuse and HIV risk behavior. She joined the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in 2007, where she has served as chief of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Branch (BSSRB) ever since.