Jernigan attended Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe Springs, CA. She graduated in 1977. Jernigan attended Stanford University, where she earned a B.S. degree in physics in 1981, an M.S. in engineering science in 1983. At the University of California, Berkeley, she received an M.A. in astronomy in 1985. In 1988 she was awarded a Ph.D. in space physics and astronomy from Rice University.
She entered the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1986 and retired in 2001. She flew on five Space Shuttle program missions (three on Columbia and one each on Endeavour and Discovery) and logged 1512 hours in space. In her last mission on Discovery in 1999, she performed an extra-vehicular activity for about eight hours.
She is married to former astronaut Peter Wisoff.
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