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Jarita Holbrook

February 7, 2018

The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Jarita Holbrook.

jarita holbrookDr. Jarita C. Holbrook was born in 1965 in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Raised in San Bernardino and Los Angeles, California, a young Holbrook’s mind was open to scientific possibilities because science and math were a part of her culture.  Her grandparents were professors at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi.  Her aunt teaches mathematics at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.  Both her parents have bachelor of science degrees, her father being a science educator and her mother a nurse.  After high school, Holbrook attended the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and received a B.S. in Physics in 1987.  After Caltech, she spent a year in Fiji with the Peace Corp.  Upon returning, she attended San Diego State University were she received a M.S. in Astronomy in 1992.  Shortly after, she began working at NASA’s Goddard Space Center. She would eventually go on to enroll at the University of California, Santa Cruz and receive her PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics in 1997.  After graduate school, Dr. Holbrook became a postdoc at UCLA and the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (History of Science).

Dr. Holbrook is currently an associate professor of physics at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa.  She recently finished a year as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) & Technology Policy Fellow in NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering.   She is an expert on African Indigenous Astronomy and the principal investigator of the Astronomy & Society group at UWC.  Her intellectual interest in African cultural astronomy has resulted in academic positions in applied anthropology and women and gender studies before her returning to physics.

Additionally, she is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose works focus on minority astrophysicists.  Her latest film, “Black Suns:  An Astrophysics Adventure,” (2017) recently won the Jury Prize at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival.  Her other works include a documentary titled, “SKA ≥Karoo Radio Telescope,” (2016) and Hubble’s Diverse Universe (2009).   

Dr. Holbrook is a Fiji Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) where she teaches math, physics, and chemistry at Ratu Navula Secondary School. Her hobbies include writing fiction, fine dining, running, dancing, and traveling.  She is married to her former USCSC classmate and astrophysicist Dr. Romeel Dave and they have two daughters.