What is EPL thankful for this year?

What are we thankful for this year?
Early morning light streams through the trees on the Broad Branch Road campus in November. Photo credit: Kelsey Prissel
Wednesday, November 18, 2020 

Turkey is out of the oven; cranberry sauce jiggles free of a can; the marshmallows are brûléed atop the sweet potato casserole; a laptop is open at the head of the table. This Thanksgiving, people across the country will need to find new ways to celebrate old traditions with friends and family. Yet even as things change, one thing remains the same. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks!

This year has given thankfulness a new perspective. In the spirit of the holiday, we asked the scientists and staff of the Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) to answer the question: What are you thankful for this year? This is how they responded: 

Bob Hazen, Staff Scientist, Mineralogist
"Every day I'm grateful for the opportunities I've been given to pursue science. For more than four decades I have been blessed by extraordinary and caring teachers, mentors, students, and colleagues. And a special thanks to Andrew Carnegie, whose legacy continues to support scientific advances pursued by the passionate and dedicated women and men of the Carnegie Institution."

Wan Si Tang, Postdoctoral Fellow, Materials Scientist
"I am exceptionally thankful to those who have reached out in a multitude of ways, whether for professional or personal reasons. These could simply be just to keep in touch, say hi, drop a line or two; to extend greetings, congratulatory messages, express concerns or wishes; long email exchanges, video chats, online games, outdoor activities. Big or small, the support has been very helpful and more so throughout this pandemic. Thank you! :)"

Postdoctoral Fellow Wan Si Tang is thankful for new and innovative ways we can connect online, including this rousing game of virtual Pictionary.

George Cody, Staff Scientist, Geo/Cosmochemist
“I am thankful for my amazing colleagues.” 

Anat Shahar, Staff Scientist, Geochemist
“I am thankful for all the people who do so much to help us do our science. All the people who do not end up on our papers but who spend all their time making sure that we have what we need to succeed: IT, HR, Development, Finances, Grants, Business Office, Front Office, BBR crew, and more.”

LCO staff carefully load the Planet Finder Spectrograph onto a truck to move it from the auxiliary science building between the Magellan telescopes to the clean room down the hill, where Jeff Crane, Steve Shectman, and Johanna Teske performed some upgrades to the instrument. Teske blogged all about these upgrades on www.blogspot.lascamapansbelles.com. This photo was taken by Johanna Teske in January 2018. 

Johanna Teske, Staff Scientist, Astronomer
“I am thankful for all of the staff at our telescopes in Chile that work around the clock to make sure we can collect photons from space!” 

Mineral Physicist
“I am thankful for the cleaning staff and building engineers who maintain the buildings and campus even when the scientists are cooped up at home for weeks or months.”

Daniel Nicholls, Systems Administrator/Laboratory Computing
"I'm extremely thankful to be working with such wonderful people where I feel like I'm part of a community rather than ‘employee 24601’. I miss my Carnegie family!"

Peter Driscoll takes a hike with his wife and two children. Photo credit: Peter Driscoll

Peter Driscoll, Staff Scientist, Geophysicist
“I'm thankful that my children's schools have been able to stay open safely, for my wife for putting up with my puttering around the house, and most importantly that 2020 will end soon!"

Rick Carlson, Director of the Earth and Planets Laboratory, Geochemist 
“This year, in particular, I’m thankful that science has given us the tools to understand how a small virus can wreak so much damage on society, recognize how a simple layer of cloth worn over your mouth and nose can impede virus transmission, and decipher the genetic code of the virus to develop what hopefully will be an effective vaccine in under a year of the appearance of this novel coronavirus.”

Alycia Weinberger, Staff Scientist, Astronomer
“I'm thankful that
Las Campanas Observatory was able to re-open in October, and that I'll be able to remote observe to Magellan in December. I'll miss seeing the spectacular night skies for myself, I'll miss interacting with the outstanding staff, and I'll certainly miss my Sunday empanadas. But I'm grateful that the Observatory staff are staying safe and still managing to enable science.”

Alan Boss, Staff Scientist, Theoretical Astrophysicist, Exoplanet Observer
“A stable high-speed internet connection, a large-screen Mac desktop, and a comfortable chair in my home office setting.” 

Katy Cain, Communications and Digital Media Coordinator
“I’m thankful for every like and retweet, every email opened, every link clicked, and every visitor to our website. It’s been a bananas year, but as long as people are engaging with science, we can get through anything.”  

Postdoctoral Fellow Yan Zhan discusses paper progress on a Zoom call with colleagues at EPL.

Yan Zhan, Postdoctoral Fellow,  Volcanologist
“As a new postdoc who joined EPL after the pandemic, 99.9% of events were virtual. However, some virtual events like the zoom coffee hour make me feel I am a part of the EPL. By the way, the Zoom annotation is a good tool.”

Lara Wagner, Staff Scientist, Seismologist 
If I've learned one thing from the COVID, it's to cherish the time we get to spend with those we care about. I'm thankful for the time I've been able to spend with people in responsibly distanced settings over the past 8+ months, and I'm thankful for the lessons I've learned not to take visits for granted. More than ever, I'm also thankful for good health, and for the many people putting it all on the line to help us stay healthy or get healthy.”

Larry Nittler, Staff Scientist, Cosmochemist
"I am thankful for all of the creative, brilliant, and kind mentors, colleagues, postdocs, students, and support staff I have been privileged to work with for >20 years at Carnegie. They have all helped me to grow and think in new ways and carry out the best research I possibly can." 

Larry Nittler (center) poses for a photo with six postdocs he's worked with at a conference in 2014.

Here at EPL, we are thankful for the many things that keep us connected—like the internet, webcams, and Zoom. We’re thankful that science advances, even when society seems to be on pause. But, most of all, we’re thankful for people.

We’re thankful for the lab managers and IT professionals who quickly set up unprecedented levels of remote lab access. We’re thankful for our dedicated co-workers who keep our campus clean and functional—in person and virtually. And, we’re thankful for all of our colleagues and supporters who reach out, collaborate, and encourage us to stay connected and motivated even when it’s felt challenging. So this year, we want to thank YOU.

From everyone at the Earth and Planets Laboratory, we hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.