Mary Barsony received her Ph.D. in Physics from Caltech in 1989, after an S.B. in Physics from M.I.T., following Jody Foster's lead in "Contact." Her thesis work involved studying molecular outflows from young stars with the OVRO (Owens Valley Radio Observatory's) millimeter-wave interferometer. She spent 1988-1990 as a University of California President's Fellow in the Astronomy Department at U.C. Berkeley, working on near-infrared array studies of embedded young star clusters and on submillimeter telescope studies of late-stage protostars.
Her second postdoc was spent at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, working in the Submillimeter Array group from 1990-1993. There, she started the weekly Star Formation Journal Club (which is still going on), and met Barb Whitney. A 5-year position as an Assistant Professor of Physics at U.C. Riverside followed with a CAREER grant from NSF, with research in submillimeter-wave continuum and spectral line studies of the youngest known protostars (of which she is co-discoverer), the largest near-infrared array survey of a neaby star-forming nursery (before 2MASS), and mid-infrared array studies (which were new technology at the time) of young stellar objects.
After resigning her position from UCR, Mary received an NSF Professional Opportunities for Women in Research and Education grant, held at Harvey Mudd College for the next year and a half, to work on the Claremont-Riverside Infrared Camera, an NSF-funded project on which M.B. had been Co-PI. Prof. Bryan Penprase has taken over this project, and the CLRICAM is now working on the Pomona College's 1.0-meter telescope. M.B. then started her own corporation, the short-lived Research Resources, Inc., designed to administer scientific research grants, before joining Space Science Institute. Under SSI's auspices, M.B. has continued her star formation research at JPL, with occasional physics teaching stints at the University of Southern California.
After relocating to Northern California, she spent the summers of 2003-2004 as a Faculty Fellow at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View working on near-infrared spectra of young binaries. M.B. now holds an Adjunct Professorship at San Francisco State University, where she supervised Jason Ybarra's M.Sc. thesis on near-infrared imaging of outflows. Jason found the first convincing evidence for how narrow jets from a young star carve out wide-angled cavities in the protostellar infall envelope: via precession. Currently, M.B. is working on Spitzer imaging spectroscopy of a newly discovered early-stage protostar and its outflow, in collaboration with hydrodynamic modellers.