“When you’re tired you sleep, and when you’re not, you do physics,” says Sabrina Pasterski, ‘The Next Einstein’ as named by Harvard University. She flew a plane before she drove a car. She doesn’t own a smartphone. Unlike most millennials, she also avoids social media; you won’t find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even LinkedIn. However, she does keep her website PhysicsGirl updated with her many accomplishments and accolades.
Sabrina Pasterski is a first generation Cuban-American. She was born in Chicago in 1993, then enrolled in the Edison Regional Gifted Center in 1998. She graduated from Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in 2010. Sabrina began taking flying lessons in 2003 and by 2006, started building her first kit aircraft, reports Inc. An MIT graduate and Harvard PhD candidate, she is interested in answering some of the most complex questions in physics. She began experimenting with the subject at a very young age, which led to the construction of a single-engine plane she built herself and flew solo when she was just 14 years old. MIT Professors Allen Haggerty and Earll Murman recruited “PhysicsGirl” after watching the video of the plane she was creating on YouTube. “Our mouths were hanging open after we looked at it. Her potential is off the charts,” said Haggerty. Even though she was initially waitlisted, she was accepted and graduated with a grade point average of 5.00, reports Latin Times.
Most high-achieving students graduate from high school with transcripts and resumes filled with lofty grades and test scores and a battery of extracurricular activities. Sabrina has soared past those accolades since her plane and solo flight. “At first it was really a challenge, because I was 12 when I started working on it. It’s an amazing experience that you really can’t get from textbooks,” she said. She is now a certified light sport air manufacturer.
What stands out to principal Eric McLaren of Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy is Sabrina standing as one of just 23 women named as a US Physics Team semifinalist, an honor afforded to a pool of about 300 students. The experience made Sabrina aware of the under-representation of women and minorities in the sciences. She is now working on a documentary to encourage them to study science. “She certainly has a lot of abilities in math and science and she’s taken what she knows and applied it to real-world things,” said principal McLaren. But the most compelling thing for me is that she is committed to creating a path for other young women and other minorities to pursue science, reports Chicago Tribune.
Already an accomplished speaker, Sabrina has given talks at Princeton, Harvard (including the Faculty Conference), MIT, and Forbes Summit Philadelphia. Apart from NASA showing interest in Sabrina, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and aerospace developer and manufacturer of Blue Origin, has also offered her a job.
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