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When the Hartford Business Journal announced the nominations for its annual “40 under 40” list, Cheshire resident Melissa Crerar Marcucci asked if they had the right person.
Marcucci, an assistant professor of biology at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, said she was thrilled to be nominated and couldn't wait to talk to someone at the Hartford Business Journal. A public relations employee had emailed her, but she was "too excited" to email her back.
Instead, she got on the phone and called, and double checked to "make sure they had the right person."
"It was a huge surprise for me. It was just a nomination, and I wasn't sure I would get it, but just to be mentioned was great," she said. "In July, I found out I was selected and I was just thrilled."
The 39-year-old Marcucci was chosen out of the hundreds of nominees to be on the annual 40 under 40 list. The list is compiled by previous 40 under 40 winners to help recognize the "young, bright leaders" in the region, according to the Hartford Business Journal.
"We are excited to recognize the outstanding achievements of these young business leaders,” said Gail Lebert, publisher of the Hartford Business Journal. "This year’s class is a driven, community-minded group of entrepreneurs, executives, and philanthropists, and we congratulate them on their many successes."
Lawyers, bankers, teachers, and more make up the 15th annual list that was revealed at the end of last month. All the winners will be honored at a dinner on Sept. 26 at the CT Convention Center in Hartford.
"It's terrific to be recognized by your colleagues for doing what you love to do," Marcucci said. "I am very lucky that my work is what I love to do. Every day is an opportunity to continue doing what I love."
Marcucci began her teaching career at Saint Joseph College in 2004 as an adjunct professor. The next year, she taught at Wesleyan University in the molecular biology department, while remaining at Saint Joseph. A tenure track position became available at Saint Joseph College, and Marcucci was hired there fulltime in 2007. Marcucci is a first generation college graduate, something of which she is proud, and that fact helps her connect with many of her students.
"My parents never had a formal college education. They are working class people that put forth their best efforts to help me succeed," she said. "Our students mirror that in a lot of ways. A lot of our students are the first in their family to go to college. It's a new exploration for the students and I feel very connected to them."
Marcucci has long had an interest in the sciences, something in which she excelled during high school. It made for an "easy decision" when choosing a major at Boston University, where she graduated with a degrees in biology and psychology.
As an undergraduate, she participated in a research project about the fitness levels of U.S. soldiers and how it could impact performance.
"It captivated me," Marcucci said.
She earned her master's degree in 1996 from Boston University and took a job at Yale University as a lab technician. She began a PhD program at Yale in 1998 and continued her research work. While at Yale, she worked as a graduate teaching assistant, and it was the first time Marcucci considered becoming a teacher.
"It made me consider a professional pursuit in teaching," she explained. "It felt really rewarding teaching the students. In a lab, you can go weeks without any good results. I was motivated by the students."
Marcucci moved to Cheshire in 2001 with her future husband Gregg Crerar. The couple has two children — Ella, 6, and Bennet, 5.
Despite her commitment to teaching, Marcucci still has a love for lab research. She has continued working at Yale, studying diabetes and medicine.
Her passion for research transfers into the classroom, where she sometimes brings students to Yale to work in the lab, as there are not a lot of those opportunities at SJC.
When she is not teaching, Marcucci serves as an adviser to the student group Jays Against Cancer, and serves on various committees at SJC, including the Institutional Review Board and Retention Committee. Outside of the school, she works with the American Society of Cell Biology, and also works as a judge for the New Haven County Science Fair.
With one of her colleagues, Marcucci has helped pilot a new course offering at SJC, which will be on the selection list in the spring of 2012. Students will be able to study the molecular biology of orchids found in Ecuador, and study their genetics.
A trip to Ecuador is planned for Spring Break 2012 for the students.
"I wanted to take my students to research in the field," she said. "We will bring the orchids back and dissect them in the lab. It's a unique project and the first of its kind at the college."