Day after day, Melissa Moss watched her mother care for her aging grandfather, a once vibrant man who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. When he could no longer remember her name and needed full-time nursing care, the devastation of the illness became real to her.
“Mom took care of him for a long, long time,” Melissa says. “I took on a lot of responsibility at home because she had to spend a good bit of time with him. His illness affected all of us.”
Sparing others that anguish drives Melissa today. A chemical engineer at USC, she conducts research that targets certain proteins associated with the disease’s development.
In recognition of her work, Melissa was the recipient of the 2012 Young Scientist Award for Excellence in Scientific Research by the South Carolina Academy of Science and the Office of the Governor. She is the first winner from the College of Engineering and Computing since the award was established in 2005.
Sparked by her father, Melissa’s passion for science and math was ignited. “He taught high school chemistry and mathematics,” she says. “We spent lots of time doing cool science fair projects and solving math problems. I came to love those subjects because he did.”
When asked why she didn’t become a doctor, Melissa says her talents were better suited to developing tools used by physicians. So working closely with medicine is important to her and a primary reason she came to Carolina. “Our School of Medicine is very interested in working with engineers. They recognize and are interested in what engineers can bring to the research table. It’s a great relationship that we have with the School of Medicine. It makes my research better, and our biomedical engineering program is really great.”
Melissa’s research has important implications for all of us, especially as we grow older. But for her, the work is extremely personal.