Natalie Batalha is a UC Presidential Chair, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Director of Astrobiology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She will lead the Early Release Science program for transiting exoplanets — a scientific community effort to acquire some of the first observations of exoplanets with the James Webb Space Telescope. “Exoplanets” are planets that orbit other stars like our sun, and Batalha was among scientists who pioneered the search for these planets. She was the Science Team Lead for NASA’s Kepler Mission, and she led the analysis that discovered Kepler-10b—the first rocky planet orbiting another sun-like star in our galaxy. Her team’s research has resulted in the identification of thousands of exoplanets, including a handful whose size and distance from their host star bear intriguing similarities to Earth. She and her team detect these planets using a method called “transit photometry,” which captures the slight dimming effect that occurs when exoplanets pass in front of the stars they orbit. For her work on Kepler, Batalha received the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award for the Physical Sciences, and in 2017 TIME Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.