Resnik was born in Akron, Ohio. While in high school, she achieved a perfect SAT and went on to study electrical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating in 1970, Resnik earned her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland.
After graduating, Resnik worked with Xerox Corporation as a systems engineer, was affiliated with the National Institutes of Health as a biomedical engineer, and was employed by RCA as a design engineer. In 1978, she was recruited to the astronaut program. Her first space flight was in 1984 as a mission specialist on the maiden voyage of Discovery. She was the first American Jewish astronaut in space and the first Jewish woman in the world in space. During her first flight, she caused notoriety for her acrobatics and sense of humor, as many viewers were accustomed to seeing only men in space.
In 1986, she boarded her the Space Shuttle Challenger for her second mission. She tragically died in the launch disaster. Resnik received multiple awards after her death, including landmarks and buildings that carry her name. A dormitory at Carnegie Mellon and an engineering lecture hall at the University of Maryland are both named after Resnik. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) Judith Resnik Award is presented each year to teams or individuals with outstanding contributions to space engineering. She was also one of ten finalists in 2010 to represent Ohio in the National Statuary Hall located in Washington.