From crafting new tools and materials to designing and building gigantic moving creatures, Melissa has an excitement for making at all scales. Her work combines an interest in exploiting material properties, hacking tools, and playing with robots, CNC routers, and 3D printers, and she teaches seminars on digital fabrication and design robotics. She joined UVA in 2011, and is in charge of the FabLab, including the Milton Air Field Hangar facility, and mentors a crew of TAs who teach a series of Shops Short Courses open to all in the University.
Her work connects her to other makers across Grounds, Charlottesville, and beyond, collaborating with multiple departments and professional fabricators. She is a co-founder of UVA's MakerGrounds, the network of shops, labs, and makerspaces open to the UVA community. In 2012-2013, Melissa co-directed The Stan Winston Arts Festival of the Moving Creature at UVA, a yearlong interdisciplinary course that designed and built large puppeted creatures with Hollywood professionals, culminating in a parade and festival. From that year, she helped to produce a short film, “The Creatures are Coming,” that debuted at the Virginia Film Festival. More recently, Melissa has developed ongoing research on ferrostructures and robotic fabrication. This work was awarded the 2017 Acadia Research Award.
Melissa has her Masters of Architecture degree from Columbia, where she was bit by the digital fabrication bug, and her BA in English from Harvard, where she immersed herself in theatrical set and puppet design. When she is not running from the student zombies, she serves on the Executive Committee of the UVA Staff Senate, plays the cello, and officiates roller derby.