Jarita Holbrook

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Jarita C. Holbrook
Born1965 (age 53–54)
Known for
  • Jury Prize The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival for Black Suns
Scientific career
FieldsCultural Astronomy, History of Astronomy, Astronomy,Astrophysics
ThesisAn Examination of the Composition and Structural Features of GL 2136 and Orion Bn-Kl Single Versus Cluster Star Formation (1997)
Doctoral advisorDavid M. Rank

Jarita Charmian Holbrook is an American astronomer and associate professor of physics at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) where she is principal investigator of the Astronomy & Society group.[1] Holbrook's work examines the relationship between humans and the night sky, and she has produced scientific publications on cultural astronomy, starburst galaxies, and star formation regions.[2][3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Jarita Holbrook was born in 1965 in Honolulu, Hawaii and grew up in San Bernardino and Los Angeles, California. Holbrook comes from an educated family: her grandparents, James and Mary Holbrook, were both professors at Alcorn State University, her aunt, Edna Holbrook, is an assistant professor in the Mathematics department at Jackson State University and both of her parents obtained science degrees.[5][6]

Holbrook studied physics at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and earned a B.S. in 1987. She then continued her physics education at San Diego State University leading to an M.S. in Astronomy in 1992. After completing her Masters, she worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.[7] Holbrook received her PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1997 where she investigated star formation efficiency in the infrared focusing on Orion BN-kl and GL 2136.[1]


After completing her PhD, Holbrook worked at UCLA's Center for the Cultural Studies of Science, Technology, and Medicine as an NSF Minority Postdoctoral Fellow with Sharon Traweek and did postdoctoral work at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.[5] She then took a position at the University of Arizona in the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology where her work examined indigenous African astronomy and how celestial navigation continues to be practiced regardless of electronic navigational aids such as the Global Positioning System (GPS).[7] In 2008, she was elected Vice President of the European Society for Astronomy in Culture[8] and president elect of the Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society. She was president of the Association of Women Faculty (UA) in 2009. In 2016-7 she was an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation's Office of International Science and Engineering.[5] 2018, she is president-elect of the International Society for Archaeoastronomy & Astronomy in Culture.

Post-PhD, Holbrook shifted focus to the interdisciplinary field of cultural astronomy and she began laying the foundation for encouraging research on African Indigenous Astronomy.[9][10] As a junior faculty at the University of Arizona, she studied navigation by the stars among ocean-going communities in Fiji, Tunisia, and the USA, organized the first African Cultural Astronomy conference in Ghana (2006) and began research on diversity issues among astrophysicists. This work led to her attaining academic positions in applied Anthropology (UA) and Gender studies (UCLA).[5] While at UCLA, she continued working with Sharon Traweek on studying diversity issues among astrophysicists, began the AIP-AAS Oral History Project recording the lives of scientists and others connected to astronomy & astrophysics, and completed a study of the South African National Astrophysics and Space Sciences Programme (NASSP).

Holbrook (RPCV) did her Peace Corps service as a science teacher in Fiji at the Ratu Navula Secondary School.[5][11] Holbrook has also written, produced, and starred in the films Black Suns: An Astrophysics Adventure (2017), SKA ≥ Karoo Radio Telescope (2016), and Hubble's Diverse Universe (2009).[5][12][13][14] She is the co-creator of several YouTube series including Inside-A-Scientist's-Suitcase, Astronomy in Cape Town, and Science Tourist.

Holbrook acts as an advocate for women and ethnic minorities in Astronomy and Science.[15][16]

Personal life[edit]

Holbrook married her former classmate and fellow astrophysicist Dr. Romeel Davé. They have two children.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Jarita Holbrook". University of the Western Cape Astrophysics. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  2. ^ Holbrook, J. C.; Temi, P. (1998-03-20). "An Analysis of the Infrared Reflection Nebula and Circumstellar Environment of GL 2136". The Astrophysical Journal. 496 (1): 280–291. doi:10.1086/305369. ISSN 0004-637X.
  3. ^ Holbrook, Jarita; Heap, Sara; Malumuth, Eliot; Shore, Steven; Waller, Bill (1994), Mass-Transfer Induced Activity in Galaxies, Cambridge University Press, pp. 109–110, doi:10.1017/cbo9780511564789.021, ISBN 9780511564789
  4. ^ Kastner, Joel H.; Weintraub, David A.; Aspin, C. (April 1992). "The Juggler - A three-lobed near-infrared reflection nebula toward CRL 2136 = OH 17.6 + 0.2". The Astrophysical Journal. 389: 357. doi:10.1086/171210. ISSN 0004-637X.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Roberson, Stephen. "Jarita Holbrook". www.nsbp.org. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  6. ^ "Jackson State University | Department of Mathematics & Statistical Sciences | Ms. Edna L. Holbrook". www.jsums.edu. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  7. ^ a b Sasso, Anne (2007-06-01). "Jarita Holbrook: Guiding Star". Science | AAAS. Retrieved 2018-11-11.
  8. ^ Harrison, Jeff (15 October 2008). "UA Astrophysicist Named to Cultural Organization". UANews. Retrieved 2018-11-11.
  9. ^ Holbrook, Jarita C.; Urama, Johnson O.; Medupe, R. Thebe, eds. (2008). African Cultural Astronomy. Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-6639-9. ISBN 978-1-4020-6638-2.
  10. ^ Jarita, Holbrook (2016). "Astronomy, Indigenous Knowledge and Interpretation: Advancing studies of Cultural Astronomy in South Africa". Journal of Astronomy in Culture. 1 (1).
  11. ^ "AAAS Fellows Biographies". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  12. ^ "Jarita Holbrook". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  13. ^ "Black Sun: Documentary Film about the 2012 Solar Eclipses". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  14. ^ Harrison, Jeff (6 July 2009). "UA Scientists' Film Chronicles Minority Astronomers". UANews. Retrieved 2018-11-11.
  15. ^ C., Holbrook, J. (2012-04-01). Survival Strategies for African American Astronomers and Astrophysicists. OCLC 816431869.
  16. ^ Diane, Murillo, Luis Felipe R. Traweek, Sharon HolBrooks, Jarita Guillen, Reynal Gu (2012-01-15). Studying Structures of Inequality in Astronomy Through Narrative Analysis and Social Network Visualization. eScholarship, University of California. OCLC 1034798905.

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