He received a Diplom in Mathematics and Computer Science, TU Darmstadt, Germany, 1985, Dr.rer.nat., Mathematics, TU Darmstadt, 1987, and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Washington, Seattle, 1987. After two postdoctoral years at the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, Minneapolis, and the Research Institute for Symbolic Computation, Linz, Austria, he taught at Cornell University. He joined UC Berkeley in 1995, where he is Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science.
His honors include a National Young Investigator Fellowship, a Sloan Fellowship, and a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship. Sturmfels served as von Neumann Professor at TU Munich in Summer 2002, as the Hewlett-Packard Research Professor at MSRI Berkeley in 2003/04, and he was a Clay Senior Scholar in 2004. A leading experimentalist among mathematicians, Sturmfels has authored or edited 13 books and about 150 research articles, in the areas of combinatorics, algebraic geometry, symbolic computation and their applications.