October 6, 2003
Awards and Honors
Alumnus Joe Palca wins National Academies
Joe Palca, science correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR), has
been chosen to receive a National Academies Communication Award for
excellence in communicating science, engineering, and medicine to the
general public. Palca, who earned a Ph.D. in psychology at UCSC in 1982,
will receive a $20,000 cash prize and will be honored at a presentation
ceremony in November.
Palca has worked at NPR since 1992, covering everything from biomedical
research to the Pathfinder landing on Mars. He recently interviewed
his UCSC thesis adviser, professor emeritus of biology Ralph Berger,
for a story marking the 50th anniversary of the discovery of REM sleep.
Palca wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on how people maintain their body
temperature during REM sleep. (The story and excerpts from Palca's dissertation
are available on the NPR
Palca's sleep research story, which aired on NPR's Morning Edition
on October 2, is uncharacteristically autobiographical. Nevertheless,
it is a good example of the kind of reporting that has earned him several
awards and honors during his career as a journalist. Full of sly humor,
the story manages to be thoroughly entertaining while conveying a lot
of interesting information about the science of sleep.
Palca is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers.
He spent a year in 1999-2000 as a Kaiser Family Foundation Media Fellow
studying human clinical trials. In 1998, he received the American Chemical
Society's Grady-Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public
(the first radio reporter to win this award). Before joining NPR, he
worked as a television health producer and as an editor and writer for
Nature and Science magazines.
The presentation ceremony for the National Academies award will take
place on November 14 during the academies' Keck Futures Initiative Conference
in Irvine, Calif. Palca will discuss his winning work in a panel session
at the conference.
This is the first year the National Academies have given the Communication
Awards. The academies consist of four organizations: the National Academy
of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine,
and the National Research Council. They are independent bodies that
provide advice to the government on issues of science and technology.
-by Tim Stephens
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