Roger Ulrich was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended the University of California, Berkeley - studying chemistry as an undergraduate before going on to complete a PhD in astronomy, his "hobby", in 1968. A year later he moved south to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and after 18 months took up a position in the place he was to remain for the rest of his career - the University of California, Los Angeles.
Ulrich made one of the founding contributions to helioseismology by recognising that the oscillations seen on the surface of the Sun propagate throughout the solar bulk. With this insight he made predictions about the detailed form of the oscillations that would subsequently be confirmed by ground- and space-based observations. This led to new understanding of the sun's internal structure and dynamics - providing insight into the 11-year sunspot cycle - as well as crucial support for the idea of neutrino oscillations. In addition to his theoretical work, however, he has also played a long-standing role in observational projects - such as making improvements to the 60- and 150-foot tower telescopes at the Mount Wilson Observatory near Pasadena.
Ulrich received the U.S. National Academy of Science Arctowski Medal in 2002. He is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Astronomical Society and the American Geophysical Union.