Neuroscientist, Social Justice Activist
“If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.” – Emerson Pugh 1929-
As a research scientist, Melissa began unraveling the neural mechanisms underlying adaptation to trauma and brain injury via memory and attentional systems. This research helped to integrate the understanding and treatment of brain disorders resulting from physical and psychic traumatic injuries. As the founder of BrainworksRI, she uses this framework to evaluate and treat patients with neuropsychiatric disorders and to advocate for their legal rights and disability benefits. She has also enjoyed teaching and mentoring doctoral and medical students at Brown since 1995.
Always an advocate for her own patients, she began advocating more broadly and politically for social justice reforms amid the fallout of the 2016 election, and the Collective Action Network was born. Municipal and issues-based activism groups began tackling issues at the grassroots level in coordinated ways to maximize impact on larger political systems. As in the brain, small strategic interventions can impact entire networks and systems; such interventions aimed at civil rights, government transparency, participatory government, and evidence-based policy are key targets. Can we unravel the complicated fabric of environmental racism and employment discrimination in Rhode Island? Yes, we CAN.
A former Ironman triathlete and marathon runner, she can usually be found running, biking, or swimming near beaches around the world, or engaged in random conversations with strangers.