Mark SubbaRao was born in Charlotte North Carolina in 1968. He received his bachelor's degree in engineering physics from Lehigh University and his Ph.D. The John Hopkins University in astrophysics. His Ph.D. thesis concerned the characterization and evolution of the luminosity function of galaxies.
He next worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a project to make the largest 3D map of the universe. He was a developer of the survey's spectroscopic pipeline which measured classified and measured their distances to one million deep sky objects. Asteroid 170009 Subbarao is named after him in recognition of his work on the survey.
Mark is an author on more than 100 scientific publications. In 2003 he joined the staff of the Adler Planetarium, currently directing their Space Visualization Laboratory. He has led the development of major exhibition galleries such as The Universe: A Walk Through Time and Space. He has also produced, written and directed a number of HD, stereoscopic videos as well as fulldome planetarium shows. These include the feature planetarium shows Welcome to the Universe and Cosmic Wonder. His visualizations have been widely shown in print and television. He was part of a team that created a first prize winning visualization in the 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. He was also on a team that was awarded the best visualization at XCEDE 2013. Dr. SubbaRao chairs the International Planetarium Society's Task Force on Science and Data Visualization, and is a member of the Data Visualization Advisory Committee of the Research Computing Center at the University of Chicago. He is also the Adler Planetarium's institutional representative on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project.