Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski: Changing the World as a Woman in STEM

May 8 - On The Dot

FIRST THOUGHT: Taking a Quantum Leap

In college, I took a course called physics for future presidents. Everyone I told about it laughed, assuming it was some kind of alternative, blow-off class. But it did turn out to answer that age-old question: When am I ever going to use this information? In fact, a section about chemical weapons made me an expert during season 5 of one of my favorite shows, Homeland, and a portion about climate change helped me truly separate facts from politics. Though I’m no Marie Curie, many of those science lessons actually stuck with me, motivating me to further challenge myself throughout my career, proving that keeping an open mind can launch you light years ahead of the competition.


Women have long had to fight to earn their right to higher education. For instance, back in the late 1800s, when Austrian student Lise Meitner was 14 and had finished her schooling, she wasn’t allowed to pursue higher education because she was a girl. But she hit the science books anyway, voraciously studying radioactivity and eventually collaborating with a researcher in Germany. Years later, the two would discover nuclear fission. The discovery resulted in her male lab partner receiving the Nobel Prize in 1944. Though Lise was shunned by the Nobel committee simply because she was a woman, it never dissuaded her from being entirely dedicated to her atomic research, which she carried out into her 80s.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski, Physicist

One brilliant woman brazenly making her mark on the science world—and quickly becoming the next great role model for girls interested in STEM—is the awe-inspiring Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski.

Sabrina is what many would refer to as a one-of-a-kind millennial phenom. And they’d be right! At the age of just 12, when most girls are struggling with self-identity and the insecurities of puberty, Sabrina was busy building a single-engine airplane. About two years later, after attaining permission from the Federal Aviation Administration, she personally piloted the aircraft above Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

When she was 19 years old, the esteemed Scientific American included Sabrina as one of its 30 Under 30, noting in its interview that she had the goal of appearing on the magazine’s cover within 10 years, an accomplishment she’s well on her way to achieving.

Now in her mid-20s, Sabrina has published dozens of papers ranging from the equations of motion to gravitational waves. With the apropos moniker Physics Girl, Sabrina has become widely known as the world’s next Einstein, with science big wigs like Andrew Strominger and the late, great Stephen Hawking even citing Sabrina’s work.

A natural talent and high IQ aren’t the only qualities that make Sabrina shine in this realm. The truth is she works really, really hard. When it came time for college, Sabrina applied to MIT and Harvard. Harvard rejected her and she was waitlisted by MIT but was eventually accepted—when she was 17! Of course, she blew everyone away with her talent, becoming the first woman in 20 years to graduate at the top of her undergrad program—in just three years, by the way—with a cool 5.0 GPA, the highest possible grade score. Now pursuing her Ph.D. at Harvard, her advisor is none other than Andrew Strominger himself.

While she’s had a lifetime’s worth of education and career accolades, Sabrina’s star is just beginning to shine. We’re sure her career will only take her to astronomical heights!


Today’s quote goes out to all the science-loving ladies out there. Lene Vestergaard Hau, regarded for her research with cold atoms and light, said:

“When I see weird behavior [from male colleagues], my first inclination is not to think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ It’s, ‘What the heck is wrong with these guys?’ ”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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