Can we find gratitude in 2020?

In the lead-up to Thanksgiving, Allen Institute researchers and staff share what they are grateful for, in this strange and trying year

November 23, 2020


It’s been a hard year — and a weird year. As the U.S. draws closer to Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, a time when many would normally be looking forward to travel and large family gatherings, COVID-19 cases around the country continue to skyrocket and we can all feel the weight of nearly 9 months of the pandemic behind us with no clear end yet in sight.

It’s been a year of incredible tragedy for many Americans. It’s also been a year of pushing through, of finding ways to keep education and work going under difficult circumstances, of making virtual connections in place of in-person gatherings, and of accelerated and direly needed scientific progress. 

As we get ready for a different — and hopefully scaled-back — kind of Thanksgiving celebration, we asked scientists and staff at the Allen Institute: What are you grateful for this year? Read on for some of their responses. 


Jeremy Miller, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science

This year I am thankful to a have a healthy new addition to my family — seeing him laugh at the smallest things reminds me that these tough times will pass. I’m also grateful that I can continue to make a difference in my work and in the world through virtual means.



Marjorie Thomas, Chief Financial Officer at the Allen Institute 

I am deeply grateful to science, technology and scientific leaders. I’m grateful to live in a time that science, combined with innovations in technology, allow us even to consider having a vaccine by next year. I’m grateful to scientific leaders, including at the Allen Institute, who have stood up to fear, uncertainty and doubt to persevere through these volatile times.  

Vicki Mergner, Materials Specialist at the Allen Institute

I am grateful that I work for an organization that has taken COVID-19 seriously and has taken the time to provide a safe work environment, and one that does such great research and shares that research with the world.


Jacquie Estep, Program Manager III, Office of the COO at the Allen Institute 

There is joy in my soul that sings out full of appreciation and thankfulness for my family, friends, colleagues and those yet unknown to me. The collective awareness, acknowledgement and courageous conversations that are being had around building a durable community of racial, equity and social justice is something my ancestors strived for but could only dream about. Now is the time to make their dreams a reality. Hallelujah!


Steve Hurley, Senior Manager in Environment, Health and Safety at the Allen Institute

I’m grateful for our collective ability to repair and correct when things get out of balance, here at work, in our country and the world.





Sue Ludmann, Senior Research Associate at the Allen Institute for Cell Science

I am grateful that I get to work at the Allen Institute for Cell Science and image our beautiful edited cell lines. I am grateful for the health and safety of my friends and family during these challenging times.




Jennifer Pawlosky, Executive Director of Communications at the Allen Institute

I am thankful for the interesting and important work of the Allen Institute and the opportunity to be a part of the larger team; the Communications team and their passion and dedication to what we do; living in the Northwest and being able to walk every day and enjoy the trees, the sky, the mountains; and my family, of course.

Viki Phillips, Manager of Facility Operations at the Allen Institute

I'm am very grateful for the support that the Allen Institute has given me and all the employees who work here during the pandemic. Our family's short and long-term outcomes would have been very different without this support. I am also very thankful for my family, who are all social distancing, wearing masks, and staying healthy.


Farzaneh Najafi, Ph.D., Scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science

I am grateful that this year we realized that online conferences and working from home are quite feasible!




Kimberly Smith, Associate Director of Molecular Biology at the Allen Institute for Brain Science

I am grateful for the abundance of time I have been gifted to spend with my teenage daughters, as I continue to work from home and they have school online.



Stuart Kendrick, Senior Network Engineer at the Allen Institute

I’m grateful for our team-oriented, collaborative, cooperative, supportive culture, for stimulating discussions over lunch, for the reliability and consistency of my colleagues. I’m also grateful for our Institute’s resilience, that we are figuring out how to continue to do our work despite current challenges. 


JoAnn Buchanan, Senior Research Associate at the Allen Institute for Brain Science

I am grateful to live in a beautiful home in a lovely neighborhood with my wonderful family and adorable dog. I am also deeply appreciative of having a job at the Allen Institute that allows me to work from home analyzing our team’s amazing datasets.



Teresa Born, Ph.D., Director of Scientific Operations at the Allen Institute for Cell Science

I am grateful for the things that make me laugh: family, friends, Saturday Night Live, my dog, or the perfect GIF. Laughter provides levity during these weighty times.


Melissa Reding, Senior Research Associate at the Allen Institute

I am grateful to have not only stable employment but a workplace that has been so generous in helping to mitigate the risks and challenges of coming into work safely.




Anton Arkhipov, Ph.D., Associate Investigator in the MindScope Program at the Allen Institute

I’m grateful to my team for standing up to the challenge of being stuck at home due to the pandemic and making amazing scientific progress in the last 9 months. I’m grateful to be at home with my family and spending time with them every day; it’s a blessing. I’m grateful to Paul Allen for starting the amazing journey of the Allen Institute, which keeps going strong even in the current challenging times.

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