Melissa Ness joined the foundation in 2018 as an associate research scientist at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. Her scientific focus is understanding the formation and evolution of the Milky Way through the study and analysis of the properties of its stars. In her pursuit to understand galactic formation by deriving information from stellar spectra, she also became interested in developing new approaches and tools to optimally extract information from spectral data, in the regime of large surveys. Ness holds a joint appointment and is assistant professor of astronomy at Columbia University. She also serves as a survey scientist for the next generation Milky Way spectroscopic component of Sloan V, the 5-million-star Milky Way Mapper (first light 2020). Prior to her astronomy work, Ness enjoyed eight years in industry as a microwave design engineer. She completed her Ph.D. at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University in 2013 and was a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.