While a lot of 12-year-olds struggle with getting their homework done on time, Sabrina Pasterski started building her own airplane when she was 12 and flew it solo by the time she was 14. She was granted special FAA permission to fly despite her age. They even made an exception for the hundreds of modifications she made to her airplane. Sounds like fiction, right? Building, owning and flying your own aircraft? Well, it does not end here. 

Think of a regular 19-year-old – you’ll probably draw the image of someone obsessed with their cellphone – checking in places on Facebook, hashtagging and tweeting their life away. But Sabrina had different ideas about life as a teenager. 

At 19, Sabrina attended the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting. For someone who flew an aircraft before she drove a car, Sabrina does not own a smartphone, and does not have a profile on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. But she regularly updates her website, PhysicsGirl, with her list of achievements and epiphanies.

Sabrina’s research involves black holes, the nature of gravity and space-time. Currently 22, she’s already graduated from MIT and is a PhD candidate in Harvard, interested in answering some of the most complex questions in physics. Apart from NASA showing interest in the 22-year-old, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, and aerospace developer and manufacturer of Blue Origin, has also offered her a job. 

Even after owning a jaw-dropping CV most of us would kill for, she was wait-listed by MIT before she was accepted. Later, when MIT professors Allen Haggerty and Earll Murman were shown a video of Pasterski building an airplane, Haggerty told Yahoo:

“Our mouths were hanging open after we looked at it. Her potential is off the charts.” 

Chicago Tribune asked her about how she felt about being wait-listed. An ever inspiring Sabrina replied,

“It was an interesting experience because it might have actually pushed me a little bit to re-evaluate where I wanted to be. (It) was a bit of a blow. At some level, I’m glad that I didn’t (apply to more schools), because if I had a safety school, I don’t know if I could have pushed myself in off the wait list.”

The first generation Cuban-American woman from Chicago graduated with a grade point average of 5.00, the school’s highest possible score. 

There are times when we might feel bad about not doing enough in our lives. For example, maybe right now, a certain someone is questioning her life choices while writing a certain article on a certain site. But then on second thought, there are people whose courage and passion inspires us to pull up our socks and go for the kill! Sabrina belongs to that club. 

Sabrina loves to stay alert and aware all the time, and wishes to be known for what she does and not for what she doesn’t do – she never had a boyfriend, an alcoholic drink or a cigarette. She loves chocolate but tries to keep herself off caffeine as much as she can. What witchcraft is this, Sabrina? (Sorry, had to insert a witch joke)

But before you label her a geek, check this. Focused, inspiring and full of enthusiasm, Sabrina loves motorcycles and opines that every physicist should learn to ride one. 

“Every physicist should learn to ride a motorcycle. It gives one a certain physical intuition, as does flying a small airplane.”

There is this thing about passionate people – they discover more and more about themselves through their work. A young Sabrina told OZY, “Years of pushing the bounds of what I could achieve led me to physics.” You have our respect, woman.

She has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from the Hertz Foundation, the Smith Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Describing physics as “elegant” and full of “utility”, one of the skills she possesses in her blog reads “spotting elegance within the chaos.”

While most people struggle to handle the pressures of working, Sabrina has it sorted. 

“Physics itself is exciting enough. It’s not like a 9-to-5 thing. When you’re tired you sleep, and when you’re not, you do physics.”

You can watch the video of Sabrina making an airplane when she was 12 years old here:

Back when she was 19, Scientific American asked her where she saw herself in ten years. A confident Sabrina replied, “On the cover of Scientific American.”