UC Santa Cruz • Professor of Astrophysics & Director of Astrobiology

Batalha is an eminent planetary astronomer who served in multiple science leadership roles for NASA’s highly successful Kepler Mission, which discovered over 2,700 exoplanets and another 2,000 candidates awaiting confirmation. She earned her Ph.D. in astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz in 1997 and received the campus's Alumni Achievement Award in 2018.

The Kepler Mission launched in 2009 to determine the frequency of Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars. Batalha got involved early on, when it was still in the proposal stage, and she contributed to many different aspects of the science, from studying the stars themselves to detecting and understanding the planets they harbor. In 2017, she was named to Time magazine’s list of the “100 most influential people in the world.”

Batalha joined the astronomy faculty at UC Santa Cruz in fall 2018. Her research focuses on exploring the diversity of planets in our galaxy. She is also bringing multiple disciplines of study together to explore the broader question of planetary habitability.