Meet Our Physicists

Joan R. Najita

Joan Najita headshot

Joan R. Najita is an astronomer at NOIRLab, the National Science Foundation’s research and development center for ground-based optical and infrared astronomy. Her research is primarily aimed at understanding how stars form from interstellar clouds and how disks surrounding young stars evolve to produce planets and the chemical ingredients of life. In recent years, she has pioneered the development of innovative techniques to probe planet-formation environments, including infrared molecular spectroscopy of disks, thermal-chemical models of disk atmospheres, and the synthesis of diverse data sets.

Najita earned her B.A. in physics at Harvard University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She is actively engaged in communicating science to the public and has a lifelong interest in the power of science to inspire and in the role of science in society. She was a 2021–2022 fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, an interdisciplinary research center in Cambridge.

Joan Najita headshot

Positions Held

General Member, 2018 – current