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Martha Nelson was in her element in early 2020. As the world grappled with the outbreak of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, Nelson, who studied viruses with pandemic potential at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), felt her work was suddenly more urgent and relevant than ever. Friends and family assumed that she had ultimate job security. “People were telling me that I must be on top of the world because my work is so important,” she says.