Julie Kornfield received her bachelors in chemistry from California Institute of Technology in 1983, her M.S. in chemical engineering also from Caltech, and her PhD in chemical engineering from Stanford University in 1988. After Stanford, she did postdoctoral work with Hans Spiess at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research. She started on the faculty at Caltech in 1990, rising to the rank of full professor.