Research scientist Jill Crittenden steps away from lab bench to address shortage of face masks during COVID-19 crisis.

Protecting healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic


“When the COVID-19 crisis hit the US this March, my biggest concern was the shortage of face masks, which are a key weapon for healthcare providers, frontline service workers, and the public to protect against respiratory transmission of COVID-19. In mid-March I kicked off a gofundme campaign for simple masks to protect frontline service workers but, when it was first announced that frontline healthcare providers were short, I completed the campaign and joined groups of scientists and physicians working on N95 mask reuse in Boston (MGB Center for COVID Innovation) and nation-wide (N95DECON). The N95DECON team and used zoom to connect volunteer scientists, engineers, clinicians and students from across the US to address this problem.

I am deeply committed to helping conserve and decontaminate the N95 masks that are essential for our healthcare workers to most safely treat COVID-19 patients.

I personally love zoom meetings from home for many reasons. For one thing, you can meet people instantaneously from all over the world, no need to travel at all. Also, it is less hierarchical than a typical conference because people all have the same place at the table, rather than some people being relegated to ‘the back of the room.’

McGovern research scientist Jill Crittenden (top left) in a zoom meeting with the Boston-based COVID-19 Innovation Center N95 Reuse team. Photo: Jill Crittenden

For two weeks, we met online daily and exchanged information, suggestions and ideas in a free, open, and transparent way. We reviewed a large body of the information on N95 decontamination and deliberated different methods based on evidence from scientific literature and available data. Our discussions followed the same principles I use in my own work in the Graybiel lab; exploring whether data is convincing, definitive, complete, and reproducible. I am so proud of our resulting report, which provides a summary of this critical information.

I am deeply committed to helping conserve and decontaminate the N95 masks that are essential for our healthcare workers to most safely treat COVID-19 patients. I know physicians personally who are very grateful that teams of scientists are doing the in-depth data analysis so that they can feel confident in what is best for their own health.”


Jill Crittenden is a research scientist in Ann Graybiel‘s lab at the McGovern Institute. She studies neural microcircuits in the basal ganglia that are relevant to Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases, dystonia, drug addiction, and repetitive movement disorders such as autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Read more about her N95DECON project on our news site.

Jill has also developed a set of helpful guidelines for face masks (either purchased or DIY). She discussed these guidelines, among other COVID-19 related topics on the podcast Dear Discreet Guide.

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