Joe Palca Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR.
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 for Science 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.

[+] read more[-] less

Story Archive

Millions Will See Total Solar Eclipse Sweep Across The U.S.

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/544953010/544953011" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Nisian Hughes/Getty Images

New Study Highlights Strong Link Between Basic Research And Inventions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/543477432/543477433" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Erik Nelson Rodriguez for NPR

Syrian Refugee And German Scientist Make An Unlikely Team

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/539044891/542087112" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The MD Brush toothbrush forces users to hold it at the optimal angle relative to their gums. Shuyao Chen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Shuyao Chen/NPR

Brush Yourself Off And Try Again: An Invention Story

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/536835736/541675248" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Flight engineer Kate Rubins checks out the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, which is attached to the International Space Station. NASA hide caption

toggle caption
NASA

After A Year In Space, The Air Hasn't Gone Out Of NASA's Inflated Module

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/532610193/539682727" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Mary Anderson's illustration of her 1903 patented "window cleaning device." The United States Patent and Trademark Office hide caption

toggle caption
The United States Patent and Trademark Office

Alabama Woman Stuck In NYC Traffic In 1902 Invented The Windshield Wiper

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/536835744/539183658" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Nedal Said risked everything to rejoin the scientific community. Erik Nelson Rodriguez for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Erik Nelson Rodriguez for NPR

Web Comic: A Scientist Runs For His Life And Finds His Dream

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/526777542/536000941" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Artist's impression of Jupiter's Great Red Spot heating the upper atmosphere. Karen Teramura with James O'Donoghue and Luke Moore/NASA hide caption

toggle caption
Karen Teramura with James O'Donoghue and Luke Moore/NASA

NASA Spacecraft Gets Up Close With Jupiter's Great Red Spot

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/535977281/536392895" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A composite self-portrait of the Mars Pathfinder. NASA/JPL hide caption

toggle caption
NASA/JPL

Another July 4th Anniversary: Pathfinder's Landing On Mars

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/535372087/535408641" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A brown dwarf can give off some light, allowing scientists — professional or volunteer — to search for the object as it moves across the sky. Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech/NASA hide caption

toggle caption
Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech/NASA

Citizen Scientists Comb Images To Find An 'Overexcited Planet'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/530766624/531099115" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Mohammad Al Abdallah, the executive director of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, shows a video that was posted to YouTube of illegal cluster bombing in Syria. Meredith Rizzo/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Activists Build Human Rights Abuse Cases With Help From Cellphone Videos

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/529825301/530868901" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

This image shows Jupiter's south pole, as seen by NASA's Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles. The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles in diameter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles hide caption

toggle caption
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

Juno Spacecraft Reveals Spectacular Cyclones At Jupiter's Poles

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/530002348/530074704" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

March For Science Organizers Work To Maintain Non-Partisan Position

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/525110160/525110161" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript