Christoph Baranec obtained his undergraduate degree in astronomy from Caltech in 2001. While at Caltech, he spent two summers working on radio telescope technology with James Lamb and David Woody at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory. He then switched to adaptive optics technology, working with Mitch Troy and Rich Dekany of the adaptive optics group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. From there, he went on to study optical sciences at the University of Arizona (Ph. D., 2007) with Michael Hart and Roger Angel. While a graduate student he helped build the first laser ground-layer adaptive optics system for the 6.5-m MMT telescope.
In 2007, Baranec returned to Caltech as a postdoc where he worked on the first purpose built extreme adaptive optics system, PALM-3000 on the 5-m Hale telescope, which started its main survey to directly image extrasolar planets in mid 2012. Also while at Caltech, he came to lead the design, development, and construction of the Robo-AO automated laser adaptive optics system.
Baranec joined the faculty at the University of Hawai'i's Institute for Astronomy in 2013 where he is interested in pushing the limits of adaptive optics technology to shorter wavelengths, wider fields, and greater sky coverage, with the ultimate goal of broadening our understanding of the universe we all live in through high-resolution imaging. He is currently developing an improved Robo-AO system for the University of Hawai'i 2.2-m telescope atop Maunakea, as well as demonstrating new technologies and techniques for the Keck telescopes and the future Thirty Meter Telescope.
His awards include a research fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (2014).