Joe Palca: NPR science correspondent, author

'82, psychology Ph.D. graduate, writer, researcher and reporter

May 17, 2011

By Andrea Cohen 

Joe Palca

Since joining NPR in 1992, Joe Palca has covered a wide range of science topics—everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He also occasionally fills in as a guest host for NPR's Talk of the Nation Science Friday. Palca began his journalism career in television in 1982 as a health producer for the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., and then worked for Nature and Science magazines. He has won numerous awards, including the National Academies Communications Award for excellence in communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the general public. He has also received the Science-in-Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Prize. In 2009 Palca was the first-ever science-writer-in-residence at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. With Flora Lichtman, Palca is the coauthor of soon-to-be-released (April 2011) book Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us, which explores psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and more, to uncover the roots of human annoyance.

As a UCSC graduate student, Palca conducted research on sleep physiology with professor of biology (now emeritus) Ralph Berger, and in 2003 he interviewed Berger on NPR to mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of REM sleep. Palca also notes that the teaching experience he acquired as a UCSC grad student was good career preparation. "Science journalism has a lot in common with teaching," he says. "After all, if you can get people interested in statistics—that's what I taught at UCSC—you can get them interested in anything!"

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