Kara earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry, cellular, and molecular biology from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, where she explored the molecular mechanisms of mitochondrial division and inheritance. She expanded her research interests with a Damon Runyon Post-Doctoral Fellowship and Cancer Research UK grant to investigate how the nervous system grows in Steve Wilson's lab at University College London. During her time there, she established many collaborations and the foundations for her current work. Her images of zebrafish eyes have been featured in the 2011 Wellcome Collection Image Awards, the MIT Koch Image Gallery, and on the cover of the 7th edition of Molecular Cell Biology, edited by Harvey Lodish. Before joining the biology faculty at Reed College in August of 2012, Kara was a full-time scientific editor of Cell.

Research in Kara's lab has been funded by the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, the National Eye Institute (NIH), and The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation.