In a year unlike any other, the Stanford community was quick to respond to the challenges and uncertainties created by the coronavirus pandemic. Many scholars pivoted their research to tackle the effects of the health crisis, from seeking therapies to treat the disease, to creating tools to speed the development of a vaccine, to better understanding its impact on psychological well-being. 

Meanwhile, faculty also transformed their curriculum to meet the new demands of online learning. Students showed resiliency as they adjusted to these new virtual learning spaces and staff too found new ways to connect with one another while working from home. Despite these setbacks, research also continued with innovations in science and technology and new understandings about the world from the social sciences, arts and humanities. And in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death in Minneapolis, students, staff and faculty came together to find ways to tackle anti-Black racism and advance diversity and inclusion at Stanford and in society.

Stanford also found a few moments to celebrate some notable accomplishments, including the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, two MacArthur “genius” grants and three students named Rhodes Scholars. 

Here’s a roundup of those and other reflections from the year.

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Stanford faculty, students connect in their digital classrooms

As courses change in response to the novel coronavirus, faculty reflect on how they are engaging with students from a distance.

Talisman perform ‘Amazing Grace’

Although members of Talisman are at home this quarter, that didn’t stop the a cappella group from coming together for a special performance of “Amazing Grace.”

‘You’ve won the Nobel Prize’

In the early hours of Oct. 12, 2020, after learning they had jointly won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, Stanford economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson talk about their work and their collaboration.

Computer model can predict COVID-19’s spread

A study of how 98 million Americans move around each day suggests that most infections occur at “superspreader” sites that put people in contact for long periods, and details how mobility patterns help drive higher infection rates among minority and low-income populations.

Stanford welcomes diverse group of faculty for 2020-21

This academic year, Stanford welcomes 91 new members of the professoriate, including 40 women and 51 men, representing six schools, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Dean of Research office and 43 departments.

Try ‘distant socializing’ instead

The same technologies that people once blamed for tearing society apart might be our best chance of staying together during the COVID-19 outbreak, says Stanford’s Jamil Zaki.

Tuning in to philosophy, humanities during the pandemic

With the 500th episode of the popular radio show Philosophy Talk approaching, program co-founder John Perry and current host Joshua Landy reflect on how philosophy, and the humanities broadly, can help during these turbulent times.

What it’s like to graduate during a pandemic

Four Stanford 2020 graduates share their thoughts and concerns about ending their college careers during such volatile and uncertain times. 

Say Their Names – No More Names exhibit at Stanford Libraries

Organized by library staff in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the exhibition offers opportunities for learning, reflection and discussion.

How new hospital benefited patients, staff in pandemic year

The 368-bed hospital building, which celebrates its one-year anniversary on Nov. 17, features technology and design features that have made handling COVID-19 cases easier.

Stanford launches IDEAL Provostial Fellows Program to bring early-career scholars of race and ethnicity to the university

Vice Provost for Faculty Development, Diversity and Engagement C. Matthew Snipp talks about the new program and the challenge of diversifying Stanford’s faculty.

Applying human-centered design to voting places

Stanford’s has partnered with the Healthy Elections Project, a joint collaboration with scholars at Stanford and MIT, to help election officials address some of the unprecedented challenges the pandemic poses to November’s general election.

Here’s how Stanford students are tackling COVID-19

From helping develop medical equipment to creating art, Stanford students from across departments and academic disciplines are finding ways to support their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MacArthur ‘genius’ grants

Monika Schleier-Smith was honored with a MacArthur Fellowship for her creative approach to studying many-particle quantum systems. Forrest Stuart's fellowship recognizes the human approach he brings to the study of disadvantaged, violent communities.

Bringing silicon computing power to the brain

A new device enables researchers to observe hundreds of neurons in the brain in real-time. The system is based on modified silicon chips from cameras, but rather than taking a picture, it takes a movie of the neural electrical activity.

Learning from the history of vaccines, disease

In a graduate seminar taught by Stanford medical anthropologist S. Lochlann Jain, students examined how previous epidemics – such as yellow fever, smallpox, polio and AIDS – can illuminate the social dynamics and politics of the era.

Stanford honors 2020 graduates with a virtual celebration

The Stanford community gathered virtually Sunday to reflect on the accomplishments of this year’s graduates, thank them for their contributions to the university, and offer reassurance as they embark on new beginnings in a changed world.

Multi-drone system autonomously surveys penguin colonies

A new multi-drone imaging system was put to the test in Antarctica. The task? Documenting a colony of roughly 1 million Adélie penguins.

Squishy, shape-changing bot roams untethered

A new type of robot combines traditional and soft robotics, making it safe but sturdy. Once inflated, it can change shape and move without being attached to a source of energy or air.

Ankle exoskeleton makes running easier

Researchers find that a motorized device that attaches around the ankle and foot can drastically reduce the energy cost of running.

Going viral, giving back

Alyssa Farrow rocked the Twitterverse when she announced that she was the first person in her Native American tribe to graduate from Stanford. Now, the 2020 graduate plans to invest her Stanford education in her hometown.

To instruct, entertain and persuade: political art at the Cantor

Stanford curator Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell explains the history of art and politics in the context of current affairs.

Stanford celebrates the 50th anniversary of Earth Day

For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Stanford scholars reflect on important environmental milestones.

United in one: In Treyjohn Butler, a fighter for justice emerges from the gridiron

Inspired by the selflessness of his mother, Cardinal cornerback Treyjohn Butler has become a voice for others.

Stanford University supports creative community during COVID‑19 pandemic

Members of the Stanford campus community have responded with music ensembles and podcasts to a grant program created by the Office of the Vice President for the Arts to cultivate artistic engagement during the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Three Stanford students named Rhodes Scholars

Stanford graduate students Abdallah AbuHashem and Ziyi Wang and senior Nicolas Fishman have been awarded Rhodes Scholarships for study at Oxford University.

A time to be heard

In this extraordinary and pivotal time, Black student-athlete voices are emerging at Stanford.

Stanford instructors help teachers prepare for virtual classrooms

The summer course, Teaching Your Class Online – a collaboration of Stanford Online High School and Stanford Continuing Studies – attracted thousands of middle school and high school teachers from across the country and around the world.

Stanford researchers devise treatment that relieved depression in 90% of participants in small study

Stanford Medicine researchers used high doses of magnetic stimulation, delivered on an accelerated timeline and targeted to individual neurocircuitry, to treat patients with severe depression.

JackTrip software allows musicians to sync performances online

A longstanding software program for online music playing has been optimized for slower, home-based internet connections.

Studying whales with high-tech tools

With innovative tools and access to some of the most whale-friendly waters in the world, Stanford researchers aim to demystify the lives, biology and behavior of the largest creatures on Earth.

Stanford law students help win landmark Supreme Court case

The Supreme Court’s ruling last week that federal law protects gay and transgender workers from discrimination was facilitated, in part, by law students working in the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

What’s a virus?

A virus called SARS-CoV-2 is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic currently ravaging the globe. But what is a virus?

Psychological research has a racism problem, Stanford scholar says

Across five decades of psychological research, publications that highlight race are rare, and when race is discussed, it is authored mostly and edited almost entirely by white scholars, according to a new Stanford study.

Alcoholics Anonymous most effective path to alcohol abstinence

A Stanford researcher and two collaborators conducted an extensive review of Alcoholics Anonymous studies and found that the fellowship helps more people achieve sobriety than therapy does.

Haas Center adapts to the pandemic

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service has identified and connected students to remote learning, service and career opportunities.

Stanford Live opens the fall season with an original documentary featuring the St. Lawrence String Quartet

The first event is a documentary about rehearsing during quarantine and performing in an empty hall with cameras instead of a live audience.

Undersea origins of Earth’s mysterious Love waves

Supercomputer simulations of planetary-scale interactions show how ocean storms and the structure of Earth’s upper layers together generate much of the world’s seismic waves. Decoding the faint but ubiquitous vibrations known as Love waves could yield insights about Earth’s storm history, changing climate and interior.

ConnectSU is a ‘virtual crossroads’ to help Stanford community stay in touch

Stanford has created ConnectSU to help students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars stay connected to each other and to the university’s mission. All are invited to take part in its first quick poll.

Stanford Medicine launches national daily health survey to predict COVID-19 surges, inform response efforts

Stanford Medicine scientists have launched a national daily health survey to identify the prevalence of COVID-19 symptoms in communities across the United States. The goal is to predict surges and enable more informed response efforts.

‘These patients are really fragile’

With no clear guidelines on how to treat its first coronavirus patients, the ICU used teamwork to find its way through.

What social media can reveal about a community’s well-being

Stanford scholar Johannes Eichstaedt has built an algorithm that can provide, in principle, a real-time indication of community well-being by analyzing social media posts.