Lea completed her BA at Grinnell College and earned a PhD from the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. Her research focused on the relationship between gender, learning, and language in German Jewish and Yiddish literature from the late seventeenth to the early twentieth century. She has been the recipient of fellowships from Fulbright, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Royster Society of Fellows, and the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies. In 2021–22 Lea was Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and European Studies at Knox College in Illinois. Since 2022 she has been a freelance editor and translator for academic presses, universities, and individual scholars, working with publications from disciplines across the humanities and social sciences and translating from German and Slovene. At the Hertziana, she oversees English-language publications in the Lise Meitner Research Group.