Terpstra received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Bethel University in 1991. Five years later she earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in medical physics and biophysical sciences from the University of Minnesota.
Terpstra has been an associate professor and scientist of radiology department at the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research of the University of Minnesota since 1991. She specializes in noninvasive quantification of weakly represented neurochemicals in 1H magnetic resonance spectra. This work was pioneered using ultra-high field magnetic resonance imaging systems, and is being translated for use on clinical scanners. Melissa is also a contributor of scientific papers to professional journals.
Terpstra is a member of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.
On August 31, 1991 Melissa Terpstra married Joel Terpstra. They have 2 children.