Joe Palca 2010 i
Doby Photography/NPR
Joe Palca 2010
Doby Photography/NPR

Joe Palca

Correspondent, Science Desk

Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors.

Palca began his journalism career in television in 1982, working as a health producer for the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC. In 1986, he left television for a seven-year stint as a print journalist, first as the Washington news editor for Nature, and then as a senior correspondent forScience Magazine.

In October 2009, Palca took a six-month leave from NPR to become science writer in residence at the Huntington Library and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Palca has won numerous awards, including the National Academies Communications Award, the Science-in-Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers, the American Chemical Society James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Prize, and the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Writing.

With Flora Lichtman, Palca is the co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us (Wiley, 2011).

He comes to journalism from a science background, having received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz where he worked on human sleep physiology.

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An illustration shows what a helicopter drone would look like on the surface of Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech hide caption

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Researchers at Brown University's computer science department are studying whether a robot called Baxter can be taught to pick up different objects. Joe Palca/NPR hide caption

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Kroto displays a model of his discovery in 1996: a soccer ball-shape carbon molecule that spawned a new field of study and could act as a tiny cage to transport other chemicals. Michael Scates/AP hide caption

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Mike Lester, CEO of Taxi 2000, sits in the SkyWeb Express in the company's warehouse in Fridley, Minn. The company has been working on SkyWeb Express system, a point-to-point personal rapid transit system. Ackerman + Gruber for NPR hide caption

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A thermoelectric PowerCard like this one can be used to convert waste heat into an electric power source, Alphabet Energy says. Alphabet Energy hide caption

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Can people tell a computer-generated story from a human-authored one? How about a poem, or a playlist? Three new contests hope to find out. ImageZoo/Corbis hide caption

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The sea snail Conus magus looks harmless enough, but it packs a venomous punch that lets it paralyze and eat fish. A peptide modeled on the venom is a powerful painkiller, though sneaking it past the blood-brain barrier has proved hard. Courtesy of Jeanette Johnson and Scott Johnson hide caption

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