Natalie Batalha has been a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz since 2018. She is an eminent planetary astronomer who served as the scientific lead for NASA’s highly successful Kepler mission, which discovered over 2,700 exoplanets and another 2,000 candidates awaiting confirmation. On the Kepler mission, she identified planets that might be able to sustain life and led the analysis that yielded the discovery in 2011 of the first confirmed rocky planet outside our solar system. In 2017, Time magazine named her among the 100 most influential people in the world.
After the Kepler space telescope retired in October 2018, Batalha left NASA to join the faculty at UC Santa Cruz, returning to where she had received her Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1997. She received the UCSC Alumni Achievement Award in 2018 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.
Her research focuses on exploring the diversity of planets in our galaxy, investigating questions of planetary habitability and searching for evidence of life beyond the solar system.