August 30, 2019

Moderna People Profile


We caught up with two of our colleagues from Delivery Sciences, who recently returned from month-long sabbaticals, to hear about their time away and how it has shaped their perspectives on life and work.

Jackie and Örn talk nanotechnologies, pushing boundaries and finding comfort in the familiar.

Name: Jackie Milton
Role: Principal Research Associate
Years at Moderna: 5.5 years
Hometown: Everett, MA

In simple terms, what does your role entail?
Manufacturing and characterizing mRNA formulations. Specifically, I’m focused on screening novel formulation components to identify and develop next generation lipid nanoparticles (LNPs)—the fatty spheres we use to deliver mRNA into cells of the body.

How did you end up in this role and what do you love about your career choice?
Grit, dedication and chance. I love that every day I have the possibility of discovering something new that could positively impact people’s lives.

jackie milton with lions

What drew you to Moderna originally? And how has Moderna changed since?
The potential of mRNA therapeutics and the importance of delivery in making it successful. The size of the company has changed dramatically from about 70 people when I started to more than 800 today!

What’s been your favorite part of working at Moderna?
The people… and mint chutney on Indian food day.

What was the first thing you thought of when you learned about Moderna’s sabbatical program?
Where should I go that I might not get the opportunity to go to later in life?

How did you use your time away to recharge?
I pushed myself outside my comfort zone by traveling across the globe.

What books did you read, shows did you watch, music did you listen to?
Books: Eat, Pray, Love; Shows: Game of Thrones, The Bachelorette, The Office; Music: Distant Relatives by Damian Marley and Nas, Throwback Jams playlist on Spotify, Original Lion King soundtrack

Did you participate in any community- or volunteer-related activities? If so, what did you do?
I spent most of my two weeks at Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe, volunteering on a lion conservation project. Daily activities included researching the pride, sweeping the bush for snares, maintaining the lion closures and walking with young lions and elephants.

What have you enjoyed most since your return?
A deeper appreciation for the things and people in my life.

What advice would you give to someone about to embark on their Moderna Month?
Your emails will be there when you get back. Enjoy the time away!

Which Moderna core value do you most embody—bold, collaborative, curious, relentless—and why?
Collaborative. I love being a part of team that works together effectively to push the science forward.


Name: Örn Almarsson (first name pronounced “earn”)
Role: Head of Delivery Sciences
Years at Moderna: 6 years
Hometown: Hafnarfjördur, Iceland (also grew up in Copenhagen, Denmark)

orn almarsson

What exactly does Delivery Sciences do?
My department comprises chemists, biochemists, materials scientists and engineers who work on the discovery and early development of nanotechnologies and other delivery devices for Moderna products and our partners’ product candidates.

How did you end up in your role and what do you love about your career choice?
As the son of a pharmacist, the concept of designing and developing drugs to improve lives appealed to me from a young age. The most enjoyable part of my job nowadays is helping to coach and develop others to become state-of-the-art experts—who are going to be better and more current than me!

What was the first thing you thought of when you learned about Moderna’s sabbatical program?
Coincidentally, long-time friends were visiting the day I heard about the “Moderna Month” sabbatical. They were planning their annual visit to Piedmont, Italy and my wife, Bryn, and I thought we would crash their trip. And we did!

Whom did you spend time with while you were away?
Bryn and I traveled together and reconnected with friends and family in Iceland, Ireland, Italy and the UK. I felt very rich for having this scattered community of people in my life.

What books did you read, shows did you watch, music did you listen to?
While away, I read Happy Accidents by Morton Meyers; saw Liverpool-Tottenham in the English Premier League at Liverpool’s home ground Anfield with friends (including Iain McFadyen from Moderna!); and listened to my usual wide variety of rock, blues and jazz/fusion.

What have you enjoyed most since your return?
Some new things came my way work-wise and I also shed some of the work I had been doing pre-sabbatical. It was good to come back and reconnect with increased focus.

What advice would you give to someone about to embark on their Moderna Month?
Take the time to reflect on what the best “theme” might be for you. In my case, it was to “wander, explore, reflect and reconnect.” I like traveling and I crave spending time with family, especially those I don’t see often.

Which Moderna core value do you most embody—bold, collaborative, curious, relentless—and why?
I am going to go with a hybrid of curious and collaborative. Of course, I hope I embody the other values—as well as the flexible nature that we all need to work in this dynamic and aspirational company.

In addition to career growth and the opportunity to deliver on an important mission to advance the field of mRNA science and improve treatment options for patients, Moderna offers a comprehensive benefits package, including sabbaticals, company-sponsored time off for volunteering, paid parental and caregiver leave and much more.

We’re always looking for smart, talented and passionate people like Jackie and Örn. Want to join the team? See all open positions and find out more about why it’s good to be at Moderna.