Ralph earned his PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2000 under the advisement of Prof. Ted Snow. He then went on to work on development of the archive and observation planning systems for NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA); first as a postdoc at UCLA under Prof. Mark Morris, and then as a staff scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. In 2008, Ralph and his family moved back to Portland, Oregon, and in 2009 he joined SSI so that he could work in an organization dedicated to astronomical research and public outreach. Ralph continues to work on contract for the the SOFIA program as a software systems development lead.
Ralph's primary research interests revolve around star formation in cluster environments (e.g. Orion) and especially the effect of high-mass star formation on nearby solar-mass protostars. He has also carried out some studies of gas and dust in interstellar and circumstellar environments. In addition, Ralph is an Adjunct Professor in the Physics Department at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.