2020 in Pictures

This year yielded stunning images of transparent human organs, apex predators, and the world’s response to the ongoing pandemic.

amanda heidt
Amanda Heidt

Amanda is an associate editor at The Scientist, where she oversees the Scientist to Watch, Foundations, and Short Lit columns. When not editing, she produces original reporting for the magazine and website. Amanda has a master's in marine science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and a master's in science communication from UC Santa Cruz.

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Dec 18, 2020



In January of this year, researchers used cells derived from a frog embryo to create “manufactured organisms” designed to carry out different tasks. Here, a xenobot shuffles across the bottom of a petri dish.

SARS-CoV-2 under the microscope


This photo, released in February, shows the characteristic “crown” of spikes on SARS-CoV-2 for which the coronavirus is named.

See-through kidney


Scientists in Germany reported in February a new tissue-clearing technique that allows them to view intact human organs such as the kidney (above), brain, eye, and thyroid.

Advances in limb transplants


This white rat received a leg transplant from a brown rat, and thanks to a new method that mimics the mechanism by which tumors evade detection, the limb survived for more than 200 days, scientists reported in March.

Inflatable lab


In Shenzhen, China, BGI Genomics deployed the Huo-Yan Air Lab in April, an inflatable laboratory to analyze SARS-CoV-2 samples, equipped with a medical waste exhaust system, qPCR instruments, and genetic sequencers.

Making it work


Steven Henikoff, an epigeneticist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, smiles from his new lab bench, which had previously been the counter in his laundry room-slash-wine cellar before he began working from home in April.

Faculty layoffs


A union member representing faculty at the City University of New York demonstrates in June against an announcement that the university system would be laying off faculty members and cutting courses.

2020 on fire

In August, the SCU Lightning Complex Fire came dangerously close to Lick Observatory, an astronomical research center in the hills above San Jose, California. Other field stations were damaged this summer in a series of fires that swept the West Coast.

Rewilding predators


Conservationists in Argentina are planning to release five adult jaguars into the Iberá wetlands, including the two-year-old Mbareté (pictured). In November, The Scientist reported on researchers’ efforts to understand how large apex predators—and their absence—affect ecosystem functioning.

Six months on


A gut biopsy from a recovered COVID-19 patient harbors traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (green) up to six months after infection, researchers reported in November.

Correction (December 21): We mistakenly called the rat in the photo above a mouse. The Scientist regrets the error.