August 2016

Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski, Millennial Science Genius

Can you imagine building an actual airplane before you’ve even started high school? That’s what Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski did in 2006 when she was only 12 years old. She built a single-engine aircraft in the garage of her father’s home in Chicago. Her unusual interests, which continued into her teen years, were signs of things to come. Now 23 years old and a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Pasterski is being hailed by some as the “new Einstein.” Like that legendary genius, she is able to use her mind in ways that many of us can only dream of. She is one of the most talented thinkers of the Millennial Generation. Millennials are people who were born in the 1980s or 1990s.

Pasterski is a first generation Cuban American who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. She became fascinated with space while attending the Chicago Public Schools’ Edison Regional Gifted Center. The school encourages its students to “explore, experience and create.” During this time, she was already talking about planning a mission to Mars! In 2010, she graduated from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a school that specializes in nurturing creative, scientific minds. She was soon accepted into MIT and won the school’s Freshman award in 2011 for Distinguished Achievement in Entrepreneurship.

Pasterski graduated from MIT with a perfect grade point average and is now working toward her doctorate at Harvard University. She is no longer building airplanes, but says that experience gave her a hands-on understanding of physics. Physics is a science that deals with matter and energy. At Harvard, she is currently researching black holes, gravity, and the relationship between space and time. Her work in these areas of study could help increase our understanding of the universe.

Many people are surprised when they discover that Pasterski doesn’t own a smartphone. She also avoids getting distracted by social media. You won’t find her on sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. She does maintain a website, however, called PhysicsGirl where she keeps people informed about the latest developments in her work. The site also includes a list of her accomplishments and milestones.

In January 2016, Pasterski was honored when the famous physicist Stephen Hawking cited her work. He published a scientific paper that quotes from three different papers that she had written. With her growing reputation in the field, Pasterski has already attracted job offers from NASA and Jeff Bezos, founder of and the Blue Origin aerospace company.

Image credit: ©Michael Noble Jr./Chicago Tribune/TNS/Alamy Live News
Question 1
What did Pasterski build when she was only 12 years old?

Question 2
Which of the following space phenomena is Pasterski currently researching?

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