Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski: The Next Einstein in the Making
Sabrina González Pasterski is known for being the “Next Albert Einstein” for good reasons. At just 27 years old, Pasterski has some amazing accomplishments already under her belt: she was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list twice, graduated from MIT Physics as valedictorian, has had her research cited by Stephen Hawking, leads a team of other physicists to better understand quantum theory, and plenty more.
Image courtesy of Helena.
Early life and education
A first-generation Cuban-American, Pasterski is a proud graduate of Chicago public schools. Throughout her adolescent years, she was fascinated by STEM topics, even building and flying her own single-engine plane at just 14.
Pasterski earned her Bachelor’s degree in Physics from MIT (after being waitlisted when she first applied), graduating with a 5.0 GPA and earning her the title of the first female to graduate #1 from MIT Physics. From there, she went on to become a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard at just 21 years old.
At just 19 years old, she was named a “30 under 30” in Scientific American, and in 2012 was named in Forbes’s “30 under 30” Science List, later making the All Star list in 2015.
Breaking Barriers at Harvard
In 2014, while at Harvard Pasterski and her colleagues discovered the “spin memory effect”, which may be able to detect/verify the net of effects of gravitational waves. This granted her academic freedom, allowing her to publish an individual paper on her findings in 2015. This individual paper, along with two that she was co-author of, was cited by Stephen Hawking in 2016.
Her dissertation was published in Physics Report, making her the second-ever Ph.D. candidate from Harvard to accomplish such a feat.
Pasterski earned her Ph.D. in 2019 and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Princeton Centre for Theoretical Science after graduating.
Who is Sabrina Pasterski Now?
After Harvard and Princeton, Pasterski turned down a $1.1M offer from Brown University to become an assistant professor to join The Perimeter Institute in 2021. As a high-energy theorist, she researches complicated topics like black holes and spacetime, as well as working on things that are hard for most people to even think about, like Low’s subleading soft theorem as a symmetry of QED, explanations of gravity in the context of quantum mechanics, and discovering infinite dimensional symmetry enhancements of the S-matrix.
She’s currently leading a team to encode the universe into a hologram to better understand and unite spacetime with quantum theory as founder and lead investigator of the Celestial Holography Initiative.
Advocating and Educating
In addition to her research (which could change how we see the entire universe), Pasterski is an advocate for women in STEM. She’s done incredible work with Let Girls Learn to help girls around the world achieve a quality education, which has received White House recognition.
“I don’t know exactly what problem I will or will not end up solving, or what exactly I’ll end up working on in a couple of years,” she said in an interview with Discovery Canada, “The fun thing about physics is that you don’t know exactly what you’re going to do. And normally things just change very quickly — kind of irreversibly — if they’re really right.”