Science

Meet Sabrina Pasterski, The 23-Year-Old "New Einstein"

At 23, Sabrina Pasterski has a standing job offer from NASA. Her research has been cited by Stephen Hawking, and it's been nearly a decade since she built her first plane engine. Kind of makes us wonder what we're doing with our lives.

A Talent for Building Spacecraft

Sabrina Pasterski has her eye on the prize: the 23-year-old Harvard PhD student (and top MIT grad) has never had an alcoholic drink or a cigarette, and isn't on any form of social media, from Facebook to LinkedIn. She doesn't even own a smartphone. "I'd rather stay alert, and hopefully I'm known for what I do and not what I don't do," Pasterski told OZY.

And what she does is incredible: Pasterski researches black holes, spacetime, and quantum gravity, and her papers have been cited by the likes of Andrew Strominger (her advisor at Harvard) and Stephen Hawking. One of the special skills she lists on her résumé? "Spotting elegance within the chaos."

Pasterski had an interest in designing spacecraft from a young age: "It's a freedom like nothing else you can compare it to," she told Chicago Tonight. She built her first single-engine plane at the young age of 14, and has a standing job offer from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com and the aerospace research and development company called Blue Origin.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing: Pasterski was rejected from Harvard and waitlisted at MIT in the spring of 2010, before eventually being accepted. From there, she graduated with the highest honors and entered the prestigious Harvard PhD program, gaining accolades such as a $250,000 Hertz Foundation fellowship for her research.

Into the Future

Right now, Pasterski is focused on grappling with physics problems that excite her, learning as much as she can from the rich resources she has access to. But with standing job offers from NASA and Blue Origin, Pasterski might eventually make a big impact on aircraft travel--specifically, space travel. Companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are looking for bright young minds to shape the future of space exploration and push us into the next frontier. And Pasterski's potential is far from unnoticed: Forbes named her to their 30 under 30 All Star list.

Still, Pasterski remains humble about her success. "I am just a grad student. I have so much to learn. I do not deserve the attention," she writes.

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Written by Curiosity Staff March 29, 2017