Ullman was born in New York and earned a B.S. degree in horticulture
from the University of Arizona. She received a Ph.D. degree in
entomology from the University of California, Davis.
Ullman began her academic career in the Department of Entomology at the University of Hawaii-Manoa in Honolulu, Hawaii. After eight years, she relocated to the University of California, Davis, where she now holds appointments in the departments of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Ullman served as chair of the Department of Entomology at UC Davis from October 2005 to September 2006, after which she was named associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Ullman's research interests revolve around insects that transmit plant pathogens, in particular plant viruses. Her laboratory has advanced international knowledge of interactions between thrips and tospoviruses and aphids and citrus tristeza virus. Her contributions played a fundamental role in developing novel strategies for management of insects and plant viruses, ranging from use of induced resistance to RNA interference.
The author of nearly 100 refereed publications, Ullman has also written for several trade journals and contributed chapters to books. She is known for innovative teaching strategies and is pioneering the use of an art-science fusion paradigm in undergraduate education. She received the University of Hawaii Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching (1990), the Hawaiian Entomology Society Entomologist of the Year Award (1992), the University of Hawaii Regent’s Medal for Excellence in Research (1993), and the USDA Higher Education Western Regional Award for Excellence in College and University Teaching (1993).