Joe Palca Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR.
Joe Palca, photographed for NPR, 17 January 2019, in Washington DC.
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Joe Palca

Mike Morgan/NPR
Joe Palca, photographed for NPR, 17 January 2019, in Washington DC.
Mike Morgan/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 is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.

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, 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's 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. In 2019, Palca was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for outstanding achievement in journalism.

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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Support structure for the thermal probe called "the mole." NASA/JPL-Caltech hide caption

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NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA Engineers Try To Remedy Stuck Probe On Mars

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Some cottonwood trees are home to microorganisms that are known methane producers. Sean Bagshaw/Science Source/Getty Images hide caption

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Sean Bagshaw/Science Source/Getty Images

Getting Fire From A Tree Without Burning The Wood

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An imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe produced all the things in existence, including corned beef sandwiches. Erik Rank/Getty Images hide caption

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Erik Rank/Getty Images

Why Corned Beef Sandwiches — And The Rest Of The Universe — Exist

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NASA Wants To Send Your Name To Mars In 2020

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Dr. Kaiyu Hang/Yale University

If Drones Had 'Claws,' They Might Be Able To Fly For Longer

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InSight seismometer with protectiive wind cover deployed on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech hide caption

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NASA's InSight Probe May Have Recorded First Sounds Of Marsquake

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George Berzsenyi mentored thousands of high school students in mathematics. Sara Stathas for NPR hide caption

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Sara Stathas for NPR

A Math Teacher's Life Summed Up By The Gifted Students He Mentored

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Laysan Albatross Kath Hudson/Hudson Works hide caption

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Kath Hudson/Hudson Works

Laysan Albatross: An Unexpected Attraction In Hawaii

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This illustration made available by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope, the planet-hunting spacecraft that launched in 2009. NASA via AP hide caption

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NASA via AP

Young Astronomer Uses Artificial Intelligence To Discover 2 Exoplanets

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An artist's rendering shows a needle-like carbon nanotube delivering DNA through the wall of a plant cell. It also may be possible to use this method to inject a gene editing tool called CRISPR to alter a plant's characteristics for breeding. Courtesy of Markita del Carpio Landry hide caption

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Courtesy of Markita del Carpio Landry

Scientists Thread A Nano-Needle To Modify The Genes Of Plants

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NASA's Opportunity rover used its navigation camera to capture this northward view of tracks in May 2010 during its long trek to Mars' Endeavour crater. NASA/JPL-Caltech hide caption

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NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity Is Officially Declared Dead

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A team of researchers in Boston has developed an insulin-delivery system that injects the medicine directly into the stomach wall, which is painless. Felice Frankel/MIT hide caption

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Felice Frankel/MIT

Avoiding The Ouch: Scientists Are Working On Ways To Swap The Needle For A Pill

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Why Morning People May Have A Health Edge Over Night People

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NASA's rover Curiosity crawls up the side of Vera Rubin Ridge on Mars' surface in January 2018. Mount Sharp — a 3-mile-high mountain — can be seen in the distance. MSSS/ NASA/JPL-Caltech hide caption

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MSSS/ NASA/JPL-Caltech

Exploring The Mysterious Origins Of Mars' 3-Mile-High Sand Pile

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As a child on a New York farm, Eben Bayer helped his dad shovel wood chips in the barn. That's where he noticed a stretchy web of fungus that became the basis of his biodegradable packing material. NPR hide caption

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