Top CCB stories of 2020

January 1, 2021
A compilation of images and photos from the top ten most read stories of 2020

For many, replacing 2020 with 2021 on calendars, to-do lists, and personal checks (and in our minds) comes with a sigh of relief—however short-lived. But, despite the year's massive (and necessary) influx of research and stories on COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, the majority of our most-read stories from 2020 did not focus on the pandemic; instead, they celebrated a Nobel Laureate's autobiography, life's possible Frankenstein-like chemical beginnings, and advances in gene-editing technology that could solve previously unsolvable mutations, like one responsible for deafness.

Maybe our readers took refuge in scientific advancement or found hope in extraordinary discoveries and achievements while the world's scientific machine worked like never before to craft solutions to an unprecedented problem. Or, maybe, the feats simply stand on their own—proof that even a disruption as large and costly as a pandemic can't stop that machine from churning. Here's a look back on our most-read stories, so you can decide for yourself:


Nobel laureate Martin Karplus publishes his autobiography

In "Spinach on the Ceiling," readers travel with Karplus from Nazi-occupied Austria to Caltech and even the kitchen, where he used chemical prowess to master cooking

Promise to restore hearing

In a first, researchers use base editing to correct recessive genetic deafness and restore partial hearing

A treasured colleague

Harvard honors Professor Roy Gordon's legacy with a new endowed title

Brian Liau earns award for novel approach to cancer research

Liau is one of 12 early career researchers honored for fighting cancer through innovation

Mask decontamination methods: Strengths, weaknesses, gaps

As health care workers resort to mask reuse, a coalition of professionals compares risks, benefits of major decontamination methods

Life’s Frankenstein beginnings

New evidence shows the first building blocks of life on Earth may have been messier than previously thought

Researchers discover molecule’s unusual cell-killing mechanism

The surprising transformation of a compound into a cancer killer suggests potential new ways to treat drug-resistant tumors

Where the BEs are

BE-Hive, a new machine learning model, predicts which base editor performs best to repair thousands of disease-causing mutations

New molecular tool precisely edits mitochondrial DNA

An engineered bacterial toxin is a key part of a gene editor that can make single-base changes in human mitochondria

Crossing the science-community divide

Vollmer-Snarr teaches chemistry students to see how small reactions can help solve global problems like COVID-19