Professor Pescosolido received her B.A. from her home state's public university, the University of Rhode Island, graduating as Valedictorian in 1974. She joined the faculty at Indiana University in 1981 and received her Ph.D. eighteen months later from Yale University (Sociology, 1982). Holding positions as Lecturer, Assistant professor, Associate and Full Professor, she has focused her research and teaching on social issues in health, illness, and healing.
Her research agenda addresses how social networks connect individuals to their communities and to institutional structures, providing the "wires" through which society's energies (social interaction) influences people's attitudes and actions. Specifically, she has examined how individuals' social networks push or pull them to suicide and, correspondingly, how they shape the processes and decisions that coroners and medical examiners make when facing the classification of suspicious deaths. However, the majority of her work has targeted the development of a theoretical framework for understanding how individuals, their families and their communities respond to illness. Focusing primarily on the case of mental illness, she has examined how the social networks of both patients and medical providers helps to determine the fates of illness and occupational careers.
Professor Pescosolido has received numerous grants from federal and private sources including the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. From 1989 to 1995, she held a Research Scientist Development Award and from 1997 through 2002 holds an Independent Scientist Award, both from the NIMH. She is the founder and director of the NIMH-funded Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research as well as the IU-Strategic Directions Initiative's CONCEPT I Program in Health and Medicine. Both are designed to enhance the research and training of IU's faculty and students to contribute to the national agenda on health and health care. In 1985, she received the Edwin H. Sutherland Award from Excellence in and Commitment to teaching and in 1992, the Herman F. Lieber Award from Distinguished Teaching. She has published widely in sociology, social science, public health and medical journals; served on the editorial board of a dozen national and international journals; been elected to a variety of leadership positions in professional associations.
She was named a Distinguished Professor in 2007. Pescosolido received the IU Bicentennial Medal in September 2020 in recognition of his distinguished contributions to Indiana University.