Alumni Profiles: Marcella Lucas, Guarini '13 (PEMM)

LeadWomen, a global organization on a mission to prepare women for leadership and board positions, selected Marcella Lucas, Guarini ’13 (PEMM), as its CEO. Lucas rose to this role quickly after joining LeadWomen last year as Director of Business Development and International Ventures. In her new role she draws on three key learnings from her graduate education at Dartmouth—empathy, authenticity, and analytical thinking to solve problems—to understand why a large workforce gender gap persists today, even in relatively developed nations, and use these insights to level the playing field in senior leadership across business and politics.

Marcella Lucas earned her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry in 2007 from the University of Bath, England. As part of her honors degree, Lucas spent a ten-month internship in Alexei Kisselev’s lab at Dartmouth – Kisselev had previously hosted Bath students both as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and as a professor at Dartmouth. This experience produced a publication in Chemistry & Biology and led Lucas to apply to the Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine (PEMM) at Dartmouth, when she joined Greg Holmes’ and Rod Scott’s research group. 

“I joined PEMM because it was positioned as a translational medicine programme. Greg [Holmes] and Rod [Scott] were both neurologists, so we would hear about real human cases to understand how to replicate the human condition in animals in order to provide better care for patients” Lucas said. Her focus narrowed in on the neural substrates and networks underlying cognitive impairment in children with epilepsy, motivated by a broad fascination with inhibitions on cognition, and a desire to enrich epileptic childrens’ lives without inhibiting their natural development to simply stop seizures. Lucas’ dissertation research produced publications in BrainEpilepsy Research, and PLoS One.

In addition to winning internal and external funding for her research, Lucas was actively involved in student leadership at Dartmouth including serving as departmental representative to the Graduate Student Council (GSC) before being elected as its President. “I loved my year as the GSC President, and working with [Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Affairs] Kerry Landers and [then-Dean of Graduate Studies] Brian Pogue,” Lucas said. As GSC President, Lucas raised the profile of graduate students at Dartmouth in many enduring ways: that year, graduate students were asked to stand at commencement and given a slot in the homecoming parade, now graduate degrees are conferred in a standalone investiture ceremony separate from undergraduate commencement. Lucas also initiated the design of the current Guarini School logo.

After graduating from Dartmouth, Lucas transitioned to life science strategy consulting in Boston, MA, navigating both the professional difficulty of holding a PhD in a field which prefers MBAs as well as the personal uncertainty of needing a work visa through a full-time position. Lucas was soon recruited as a Fellow for the Malaysia Blue Ocean StrategyInstitute, relocating to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There, she developed high value, low cost, and rapidly implementable strategies for social and economic development. Her notable accomplishments as a Fellow include designing strategy for Malaysia’s 11th(and final) 5-year plan to achieve developed country status—including strategy papers for projects and initiatives collectively worth RM260 billion ($62 billion US)—and training hundreds of government employees in Blue Ocean Strategy concepts and frameworks. 

Lucas’ successes at Dartmouth, followed by difficulties as a consultant in US, led her to seek her own professional centre. The insights she gained from this introspection have guided her subsequent path of success in Malaysia. “Over the years I have learned to balance adaptation with staying true to your own values and leadership style. In other words, find your own Blue Ocean, your own unique value proposition” Lucas says to future Guarini School alumni. We are so proud of Lucas and the work she is doing with LeadWomen, and we can’t wait to see what she does next!