Melissa Burnham, Ph.D.

Department Chair and Professor of Human Development, Family Science and Counseling; and Executive Coordinator of the Child & Family Research Center
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Dr. Melissa Burnham is the Department Chair of Human Development, Family Science and Counseling; and Professor of Human Development and Family Science and Early Childhood Education. She obtained her Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of California, Davis in 2002, her Master's degree in HDFS from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1996, and her Bachelor's degree in HDFS from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1994. She has been a faculty member with the HDFS program since the fall of 2001. She also served as Associate Dean for the College of Education from 2015-2019.

Dr. Burnham's research interests focus on the examination of infant and child development in context, with specific expertise in infant and child sleep development. She is also interested in and has studied the impact of quality early care and education on development and PreK-Third Grade educational reform efforts. Dr. Burnham has taught courses in the HDFS undergraduate and master's degree programs as well as in the Early Childhood Education track of the Integrated Elementary Teaching Program (IETP).

Dr. Burnham has served the College of Education & Human Development as Division Director for Teacher Education and Human Development, the chair of the IETP Steering Committee, and program coordinator for the HDFS program. She serves the Reno/Sparks community as the chair of the local Washoe County Early Childhood Advisory Council and as a member of the Nevada Registry Advisory Committee. She serves the state of Nevada as the President of the Nevada Commission on Professional Standards in Education and is the current President of the Nevada Association for Colleges of Teacher Education.

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Publications

  • Walsh, B. A., Sanchez, C., & Burnham, M. M. (accepted for publication). Shared storybook reading in Head Start: Impact of questioning styles on the vocabulary of Hispanic dual language learners. Early Childhood Education Journal.
  • Dissel, S., Seugnet, L., Thimgan, M. S., Silverman, N., Angadi, V., Thacher, P. V., Burnham, M. M., & Shaw, P. J. (2014; e pub ahead of print). Differential activation of immune factors in neurons and glia contribute to individual differences in resilience/vulnerability to sleep disruption. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2014.09.019.
  • Walsh, B. A., Burnham, M. M., Pasley, C., & Maitoza, R. B. (2014). Explicit reference to theory: A content analysis of two prominent human development journals. Family Science Review, 19 (1), 105-119.
  • Burnham, M. M. (2013). Co-sleeping and self-soothing issues during infancy. In A. Wolfson & H. Montgomery-Downs (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of infant, child, and adolescent sleep and behavior (pp.127-139). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Burnham, M. M. (2012). Sleep in early development. In D. Barrett& P. McNamara (Eds.), Encyclopedia of sleep and dreams. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishers.
  • Mortensen, J., & Burnham, M. M. (2012). Preschool children¹s understanding of the graphic features of writing. Child Studies in Diverse Contexts, 2(1), 45-60.
  • Walsh, B. A., Rose, K. K., Sanchez, C., & Burnham, M. M. (2012). Exploration of how Spanish and English non-eliciting questions affect the novel vocabulary acquisition of Hispanic dual language learners enrolled in Head Start. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36, 383-390. doi: 10.1007/s10643-011-0483-8.
  • Burnham, M. M., & Gaylor, E. E. (2011). Sleep environments of young children in post-industrial societies. In M. El-Sheikh (Ed.), Sleep and development: Familial and socio-cultural considerations. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Burnham, M. M., & Conte, C. (2010). Developmental perspective: Dreaming across the lifespan and what this tells us. In A. Clow & P. McNamara (Eds.), International Review of Neurobiology: Vol. 92. Dreams and dreaming (pp. 47-68). New York: Elsevier.


  • Ph.D., University of California, Davis
  • M.S., University of Nevada, Reno
  • B.S., University of Nevada, Reno