Chancellor Cynthia Larive has appointed Natalie Batalha, professor of astronomy & astrophysics, as the UC Santa Cruz Presidential Chair for work on the UCSC Astrobiology Initiative. Batalha is currently director of the initiative, which was established in 2019 to unite the sciences, humanities, and arts in a search for evidence of life beyond earth.
Batalha’s research has continually expanded the boundaries of what we know about life on other planets. As a co-investigator on NASA’s Kepler Mission, Batalha oversaw the scientific work that exponentially expanded the estimate of potentially habitable planets and sparked the worldwide acceleration of astrobiology. Her fellow researchers at UC Santa Cruz have made influential achievements in exoplanet science, life sciences, and planetary science that have also contributed to the development of astrobiology as a field. The goal of the new initiative is to build on these contributions and bring us closer to being able to definitively answer whether there is life outside of earth, and to train science communicators to be able to better share these new discoveries to the public.
In her letter announcing the Presidential Chair appointment, Chancellor Larive praised Batalha’s proposal for growing the Astrobiology Initiative as “a broad and creative vision… that promotes interdisciplinary collaborations, research, and perspectives in the search for evidence of life beyond Earth.”
Batalha’s appointment as Chair will take effect July 1, 2021 and continue through June 30, 2024.