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Susan Mello

Susan Mello is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University. Broadly, her research interests lie at the intersection of risk perception, health communication, and the environment. Her recent work explores how exposure to risk information in the media, specifically about environmental toxins, COVID-19, and cancer, impacts individual perceptions and protective health behaviors. Her research has been published in Journal of Health Communication, Risk Analysis, and Nicotine & Tobacco Research, among other journals, and she has peer-reviewed research proposals for Cancer Research UK and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Prior to joining the faculty at Northeastern, Dr. Mello served on the faculty at The Ohio State University’s School of Communication. She earned her doctoral and master’s degrees from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also taught undergraduate courses and worked as a research assistant in a National Cancer Institute-funded Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research. Dr. Mello was a 2007-2008 U.S. Fulbright Fellow to Quebec City, Canada, and also worked in public relations for Discovery Communications, Inc. the parent company of the Discovery Channel, Discovery Health, and Planet Green. She graduated summa cum laude from Boston College with a BA in Communication.

At Northeastern University, she teaches classes on communication theory, health communication campaigns, risk communication and regularly guest lectures for the Bouvé College of Health Science Honors Program. In 2019, she was selected as a recipient of the College of Arts, Media and Design’s Excellence in Teaching Award. She has also served as chair of the department’s Curriculum Committee and the college’s Academic Affairs Committee.

Research/Publications Highlights

  • Mello, S. , Stifano, S., Tan., A. S. L., Sanders-Jackson, A., & Bigman, C. A. (2020). Gendered conceptions of preconception health: A thematic analysis of men’s and women’s beliefs about responsibility for preconception health behavior. Journal of Health Communication. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2020.1775728
  • Mello, S ., Alper, M. & Allen, A. (2020). Physician mediation theory and pediatric media guidance in the digital age: A survey of autism medical and clinical professionals. Health Communication, 35 (8), 955-965 . doi: 10.1080/10410236.2019.1598744
  • Tan, A. S. L., Bigman, C., Mello, S., & Sanders-Jackson, A. (2019). Trends in prevalence of exposure to e-cigarette aerosol in public places among US middle and high school students, 2015 to 2018. JAMA Network Open, 2 (8): e1910184 . doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.10184
  • Mello, S. , Tan., A. S., Sanders-Jackson, A., & Bigman, C. (2019). Gender stereotypes and preconception health: Men’s and women’s expectations of responsibility and intentions to engage in preventive behaviors. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 23 (4), 459-469. doi: 10.1007/s10995-018-2654-3
  • Bigman, C., Mello, S., Sanders-Jackson, A., & Tan, A. S. (2018). Speaking up about lighting up in public: Examining psychosocial correlates of smoking and vaping assertive communication intentions among U.S. adults. Health Communication, 34 (4), 500-510. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2018.1428849
  • Bigman, C., Mello, S., Sanders-Jackson, A., & Tan, A. S. (2018). Assertive communication about others’ smoking and vaping in public venues: Results from a national survey of U.S. adults. Addictive Behaviors, 87 , 196-199. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.07.015
  • Seitz, H. H., Schapira, M. M., Gibson, L., Skubisz, C., Forquer, H., Mello, S. , Armstrong, K., & Cappella, J. N. (2018). Explaining the effects of a decision intervention on mammography intentions: The roles of worry, fear and perceived susceptibility to breast cancer. Psychology & Health, 33 (5), 682-700 . doi: 10.1080/08870446.2017.1387261
  • Tan, A. S., Mello, S. , Bigman, C., & Sanders-Jackson, A. (2017). Knowledge about chemicals in e-cigarette secondhand vapor and perceived harms of exposure among a national sample of U.S. adults. Risk Analysis, 37 (6) 1170-1180 . doi: 10.1111/risa.12676
  • Mello, S. & Hornik, R. C. (2016). Media coverage of pediatric environmental health risks and its effects on mothers’ protective behaviors. Risk Analysis, 36 (3), 605-622 . doi: 10.1111/risa.12467
  • Mello, S. & Hovick, S. (2016). Predicting behaviors to reduce toxic chemical exposures among new and expectant mothers: The role of distal variables within the integrative model of behavioral prediction. Health Education & Behavior, 43 (6), 705-715. doi: 10.1177/1090198116637600
  • Mello, S. & Tan, A. S. (2016). Who’s responsible? Media framing of responsibility for pediatric environmental health and mothers’ perceptions of accountability. Journal of Health Communication, 21 (12), 1217-1226 . doi: 10.1080/10810730.2016.1240267
  • Sanders-Jackson, A., Tan, A. S., Bigman, C., Mello, S. , & Niederdeppe, J. (2016). To regulate or not to regulate? Views on electronic cigarette regulations and beliefs about the reasons for and against regulation. PLoS ONE, 11 (8): e0161124 . doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0161124
  • Seitz, H. H., Gibson, L., Skubisz, C., Forquer, H., Mello, S. , Schapira, M. M., Armstrong, K., & Cappella, J. N. (2016). Effects of a risk-based online mammography intervention on accuracy of perceived risk and mammography intentions. Patient Education & Counseling, 99 (10), 1647-1656 . doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2016.05.005
  • Mello, S., Bigman, C. A., Sanders-Jackson, A., & Tan, A. S. (2016). Perceived harm of secondhand e-cigarette vapors and policy support to restrict public vaping. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 18 (5), 686-693 . doi: 10.1093/ntr/ntv232
  • Mello, S. (2015). Media coverage of toxic risks: A content analysis of pediatric environmental health information available to new and expecting mothers. Health Communication, 30 (12), 1245-1255 . doi: 10.1080/10410236.2014.930398
  • Tan, A. S., Bigman, C. A., Mello, S. & Sanders-Jackson, A. (2015). Is exposure to e-cigarette communications associated with perceived harms of e-cigarette secondhand vapor? Results from a national survey of U.S. adults. BMJ Open, 5 : e007134 . doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007134
  • Hornik, R. C., Parvanta, S., Mello, S., Freres, D. & Schwartz, J. S. (2013). Effects of scanning – routine health information exposure – on cancer prevention and screening behaviors in the general population. Journal of Health Communication, 18 (12), 1422-1435. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2013.798381
  • Mello, S., Tan, A. S., Armstrong, K., Schwartz, J. S., Hornik, R. C. (2013). Anxiety and depression among cancer survivors: The role of information engagement with sources of emotional support information. Health Communication, 28 (4), 389-396 . doi: 10.1080/10410236.2012.690329
  • Mello, S. (2012). Selling a super cosmeceutical: Contextualizing risk in direct-to-consumer advertising of Botox® Cosmetic. Health, Risk & Society, 14 (4), 385-398. doi: 10.1080/13698575.2012.680951
  • Tan, A. S., Mello, S., & Hornik, R. C. (2012). A longitudinal study on engagement with dieting information as a predictor of dieting behavior among adults diagnosed with cancer. Patient Education & Counseling, 88 (2), 305-310. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2012.02.008

Professional Affiliations

  • International Communication Association (ICA)
  • National Communication Association (NCA)
  • American Public Health Association (APHA)
  • Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM)


Communication Studies


  • Ph.D., Communication, University of Pennsylvania
  • B.A., Communication, Boston College


  • Excellence in Teaching Award, College of Arts, Media, and Design, Northeastern University
  • Top Student Paper Award, Health Communication Division National Communication Association
  • Russell Ackoff Doctoral Student Fellowship, The Wharton School Risk Management & Decision Making Center, UPenn
  • Presidents and Provost President’s and Provost’s Citation for Exceptional Commitment to Graduate Student Life, UPenn

Research Focus

  • Health & environmental communication
  • media & message effects
  • behavior change theory
  • risk perception
  • cancer
  • quantitative research methods

Courses Taught

  • COMM 2300 Risk Communication
  • COMM1225 Communication Theory
  • COMM4102 Health Communication Campaigns

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