Alexei Starobinsky was born in 1948 in Moscow. In 1972 he graduated with a degree in physics from Moscow State University, and in 1975 he received his Ph.D. from the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, part of the USSR (now Russian) Academy of Sciences. In 1979, while at the Landau Institute, he developed the first working model of inflation and calculated the generation of gravitational waves during inflation.
Starobinsky has remained at the Landau Institute, serving first as a research scientist from 1975 to 1990, then as the head of the Department of Gravity and Cosmology from 1990 to 1997, and since then as the Main Research Scientist. During this time he has also held visiting professorships at École Normale Supérieure in Paris, the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics at Kyoto University in Japan, and the Research Center for the Early Universe at the University of Tokyo.
His administrative positions have included the Science Secretary of the Landau Institute in the late 1980s, the co-director of the USSR-USA Summer Program for Young Investigators in Cosmology in 1990 and 1991, and the deputy director of the Landau Institute from 1999 to 2003.
Starobinsky has received a Russian State Distinguished Scientific Fellowship, the A.A. Friedmann Prize for Research in the Field of Gravity and Cosmology from the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Klein Medal of the Stockholm University and, both with Viatcheslav Mukhanov, the Tomalla Prize of the Tomalla Foundation for Gravity Research in Switzerland and the Amaldi Medal from the Italian Society for General Relativity and Gravitational Physics.