in public health engineering from Georgia Tech in 1951 and a Ph.D. in radiological and environmental engineering from the University of Florida in 1960. His devotion to public health, in general, and radiological health in particular, continued throughout his career.
Mel joined the U.S. Public Health Service as a commissioned officer in 1951 and worked at the famed Environmental Health Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Shortly thereafter, he was assigned to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he studied the fate of radioactive materials in the environment and the management of radioactive waste. While at Oak Ridge, he was briefly assigned to the Off-Site Safety Program for the Upshot-Knothole Series of nuclear weapons tests at the Nevada Test Site.
He later returned to Cincinnati to work on decontamination and radioactive waste disposal mostly for the U.S. Air Force. In 1955, he was appointed deputy officer-in-charge of the Health and Safety Program established by the U.S. Public Health Service and attached to the Atomic Energy Commission. His responsibilities included serving as off-site radiological safety officer for the nuclear test series conducted at the Pacific Proving Grounds in 1956 and 1958. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1960, he was appointed officer-in-charge/director of the Southeastern Radiological Health Laboratory in Montgomery, Alabama, and later to the same position at the much larger Southwestern Radiological Health Laboratory, in Las Vegas, Nevada, which eventually became the National Environmental Research Center, part of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Mel had a unique style of leadership—he was soft-spoken but determined. As the leader of multidisciplinary research and operations, he had to understand the needs of investigators in medicine, ecology (including wildlife management), toxicology, farming, chemistry, physics, and various branches of engineering. He knew how to encourage investigators to be creative while responding to the demands of government agencies that had highly visible missions, maintaining an infrastructure, and ensuring the financial integrity of the lab.