He attended the William Penn Charter School, received South.B. degrees in mathematics and in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in 1975, and a Doctor of Philosophy in theoretical astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1981.
He then held postdoctoral appointments at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University. In 1985, Balbus joined the faculty of the University of Virginia. In 2004, he was appointed Professeur des Universités in the Physics Department of the École Normale Supérieure de Paris.
He remained in Paris until 2012, when he moved to Oxford University as the Savilian Professor of Astronomy.
At Oxford, he teaches astrophysical gas dynamics and supervises postdoctoral researchers and students. Balbus" research is in theoretical astrophysics.
He has made discoveries related to gravitational instability in the interstellar medium and several contributions to the theory of thermal processes in magnetized dilute plasmas. Most recently, Balbus has been working on a theory of the Sun"s internal rotation.
Balbus was awarded a Chaire d"excellence in 2004 by the French Ministry of Higher Education.
According to the Shaw selection committee the "discovery and elucidation of the magnetorotational instability (Medical Research Institute)" solved the previously "elusive" problem of accretion, a widespread phenomenon in astrophysics and "provides what to this day remains the only viable mechanism for the outward transfer of angular momentum in accretion disks". Balbus is the recipient of a Wolfson Research Merit Award, and has held visiting faculty positions at Princeton University (Bohdan Paczynski Visitor and Spitzer Lecturer, 2011) and the University of California at Berkeley (Visiting Miller Professor, 2012). In April 2015, Balbus was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences.
National Academy of Sciences.