Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski: The Millennial Physics Phenomenon
Meet The Physics Whizz That Harvard University Touts As The New Albert Einstein
By Hana Maher
In 2006, 13-year-old Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski, had built her own single-engine plane and flown it solo a year later. She then marched down to the MIT campus offices to seek approval for the aircraft she had built, which led to the aeronautical wunderkind’s academic career taking flight. After earning an undergraduate physics degree from MIT in three years with a perfect GPA, Sabrina is taking the world of physics by storm! As a matter of fact, the 26-year-old American theoretical physics graduate generated buzz after Harvard University – where she is currently a Ph.D candidate in physics for the Fundamental Laws of Nature – touted her as the new Albert Einstein.
Sabrina describes herself as a proud first-generation Cuban-American, and was born in Chicago on 3 June 1993. In 1998, she enrolled in the Edison Regional Gifted Center and later graduated from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in 2010. Although she graduated from MIT with a 5.00 GPA – the highest possible score – Sabrina was actually waitlisted when she first applied to MIT, and later won the school’s Freshman Award for Entrepreneurship in 2011. While studying the nature of gravity and space-time, (that essentially means the young lass is studying to understand how the universe operates) Sabrina wrote a paper on asymptotic symmetries and electromagnetic memory which was soon added to Harvard’s grad-school curriculum.
But what helped spark Sabrina’s interest in science was actually flying. She had the opportunity to take flying lessons in 2003, when she was just nine years old. While she initially dreamt of building spacecrafts and working for an aerospace company, that all changed when she started interning for Boeing Phantom Works and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as she realised that she would rather learn the physics behind ‘flight.’ “You get a sense of how things are connected to each other [when you build a plane], but you don’t necessarily know the science behind why it can fly in the first place,” she aptly explained.
Her commitment to study the physics behind flight has been immensely well-supported thus far, as she has been granted thousands of dollars to support her work, including a $250,000 fellowship with Hertz Foundation as well as a $150,00 fellowship with the National Science Foundation – both fellowships expected to last until next year. Sabrina, undoubtedly, was born to be a physics genius and Scientific American acknowledged this fact by featuring the then 19-year-old whizz kid as one of its inspiring “30 Under 30” figures in 2012. If that’s not awe-inspiring enough, Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, has also graced Sabrina with a standing job offer with his company!
It’s both amazing and astonishing to know that we live in a time where the next (and perhaps new) Albert Einstein has been resurrected in a form of a woman. And when InStyle asked the inspiring woman to whom she credited her successes thus far, she humbly said, “It’s humbling to admire your previous self and realize you’re the same person— you can [succeed] again.” Perhaps this accomplished woman may serve as a beacon of inspiration and encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM!