Nature’s 10: ten people who helped shape science in 2020

01 01 2021 | 11:16

A COVID vaccine developer, an Arctic voyager and a prime minister are some of the people behind the year’s big research stories.

The Nature’s 10 list explores key developments in science this year and some of the people who played important parts in these milestones. Along with their colleagues, these individuals helped to make amazing discoveries and brought attention to crucial issues. Nature’s 10 is not an award or a ranking. The selection is compiled by Nature’s editors to highlight key events in science through the compelling stories of those involved.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: Warning the world

The public-health leader faced challenges from all sides in trying to rally the globe against COVID-19.

By Smriti Mallapaty

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Verena Mohaupt: Polar patroller

In an unprecedented Arctic mission, this logistics chief kept scientists safe from bears, extreme cold and themselves.

By Shannon Hall

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Gonzalo Moratorio: Coronavirus hunter

A virologist aided Uruguay’s successful response to the new coronavirus.

By Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

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Adi Utarini: Mosquito commander

A public-health researcher led a pioneering trial of a technology that could help to eliminate dengue fever.

By Nisha Gaind

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Kathrin Jansen: Vaccine leader

This executive managed one of several lightning-speed efforts to successfully develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

By Elie Dolgin

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Zhang Yongzhen: Genome sharer

This scientist and his team posted the coronavirus’s RNA sequence online before anyone else.

By David Cyranoski

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Chanda Prescod-Weinstein: A force in physics

A cosmologist pursues the nature of dark matter while also confronting racism in science and society.

By Nidhi Subbaraman

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Li Lanjuan: Lockdown architect

This epidemiologist advised shutting down Wuhan to control the earliest COVID-19 outbreak.

By David Cyranoski

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Jacinda Ardern: Crisis leader

New Zealand’s prime minister won praise for effective action during the pandemic.

By Dyani Lewis

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Anthony Fauci: Science’s defender

A storied US doctor became his nation’s conscience on COVID-19 even as detractors threatened his life.

By Heidi Ledford

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Ones to watch in 2021

  • Marion Koopmans

Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

This virologist is part of a World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Zhang Rongqiao

China National Space Administration

The chief designer of China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission will be working to successfully carry out his nation’s first exploration of the red planet.

  • Karen Miga

University of California, Santa Cruz

This biologist co-leads the Telomere-to-Telomore (T2T) consortium that is working to produce the first truly complete sequence of the human genome.

  • Rochelle Walensky

Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts

US President-elect Joe Biden has selected this infectious-disease specialist to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Jane Greaves

Cardiff University, UK

This astronomer will follow up her team’s observation of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere, a potential sign of life on that planet.

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