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Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski: The Young Woman Dubbed the “Next Albert Einstein”

September 23, 2020

This profile on Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski, a theoretical physicist and a first generation Cuban American, is the first post in a month-long series of profiles on Hispanic STEM innovators in honor of Hispanic History Month.

Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski’s interest in STEM began early in her life–at age 9, to be exact­–during her first flight in an airplane1. This interest quickly graduated to a hands-on hobby when she built an airplane engine at age 10 and a complete airplane two years later which she took for a solo test flight at 14 years old, a year before this Chicago native could even test for her learner’s permit1,2.

To no one’s surprise, Pasterski’s drive and intellect propelled her through school which she raced through. After graduating at the top of her class with a 5.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) from the Massachusetts Institution of Technology (MIT), she was a PhD candidate in Physics at Harvard University at only 21 years of age1,2,3.

“Years of pushing the bounds of what I could achieve led me to physics,” said Pasterski in an interview with Yahoo4.

According to her Postdoctoral Fellows page on Princeton University’s website, Pasterski is “interested in quantum gravity and holography” and her “current research focuses on scattering in asymptotically flat spacetimes and constructing a putative codimension 2 dual CFT.”5

In a 2012 interview with Scientific American focused on that year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Pasterski said, “Building an airplane from a kit and flying as a child, I longed to understand the physics, application and reach of flight.”6

In 2012, Pasterski was named as one of “30 under 30” in a Scientific American column when she was only 19, and was named to another list with the same name published by Forbes magazine in 2015 when she was only 21 years old7Pasterski shares her knowledge outside of research papers too. As an advocate for Let Girls Learn, a government initiative launched by former president Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama that focuses on assisting girls obtain an education that empowers them, Pasterski was invited to the White House in 20163.

Despite her many personal accomplishments and incredible academic record, it was Pasterski’s research that garnered her this much deserved attention and unofficial title of the “Next Albert Einstein.” In fact, Stephen Hawking cited three of Pasterski’s published papers, two with written with her colleagues and one written individually, in his own work in 20163.

According to Harvard’s website, “Pasterski studies high energy theoretical physics, believing that it holds the potential to transform multidisciplinary fields.” And she said “I see no limit to what we can achieve and view the word ‘impossible’ as a challenge…This kind of physics will create undreamed of advances that transform the way we live and the world we live in.”8

Another article on the young genius specifies that Pasterski’s “work seamlessly delves into topics that most people cannot even begin to wrap their heads around: spacetime and black holes, explanations of gravity in the context of quantum mechanics, Low’s subleading soft theorem as a symmetry of QED.”2

Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics, director of Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, and Pasterski’s Harvard PhD advisor, gave Pasterski free reign in her second year as a PhD student to study an subject with any person she would like as a further testament to her genius3.

Physics itself is exciting enough,” Pasterski said in the Yahoo interview. ”It’s not like a 9-to-5 thing. When you’re tired you sleep, and when you’re not, you do physics.”4

For more information on Pasterski, click here to visit her YouTube channel. Click here for more information on Capitol Tech’s Aviation programs or click here for information on the university’s degree in Quantum Computing, which harnesses and exploits the laws of quantum mechanics to process a vast number of calculations simultaneously.

References:

  1. PBS. (2020, April 6). Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski. Retrieved from https://whyy.org/episodes/sabrina-gonzalez-pasterski/.
  2. Berbari, G. (2020, July 19). At 22, this millennial was called the next Einstein. What’s she up to today?. Retrieved from https://www.considerable.com/life/education/sabrina-paterski/.
  3. Interesting Engineering. (2017, August 31). Sabrina Pasterski: the 'Physics Girl' Who Built Her First Plane at Thirteen Years Old. Retrieved from Engineering.com/sabrina-pasterski-the-physics-girl-who-built-her-first-plane-at-thirteen-years-old.
  4. Halime, F. (2016, January 12). This Millennial Might Be the New Einstein. Retrieved from https://news.yahoo.com/millennial-might-einstein-080000030.html.
  5. Princeton University. (2018). Postdocs. Retrieved from http://pcts.princeton.edu/people/postdocs/2.
  6. Scientific America. (2012, June 12). 30 under 30: A Teenage Pilot and Aspiring Physicist. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/lindau-sabrina-pasterski.
  7. Singh, A. (2017, October 10). Meet The Harvard Graduate: The Next Einstein In Making. Retrieved from https://www.ndtv.com/education/meet-the-harvard-graduate-the-next-einstein-in-making-1760990#:~:text=She%20spent%20three%20years%20at,her%20doctorate%20at%20Harvard%20University. 
  8. Harvard University. (2015, June 19). Thirty Under 30. Retrieved from https://gsas.harvard.edu/news/stories/30-under-thirty.