An only child, Pasterski admits she’s not on social media and, unlike the majority of her peers, has never had a boyfriend, smoked a cigarette, or drunk an alcoholic beverage. Instead, she spends her free time exploring the concepts of quantum gravity, black holes, and spacetime, the mathematical model that combines space and time into a single continuum.
Among the papers she’s published, which are listed along with other accomplishments on her website, PhysicsGirl.com: “Semiclassical Virasoro Symmetry of the Quantum Gravity S-Matrix,” “Gaussian Measures and the QM Oscillator,” and “Low’s Subleading Soft Theorem as a Symmetry of QED.”
Her work in the physics community has led to standing job offers from Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin, and NASA, among others.
Though Pasterski herself is a standout, her interest is part of a larger trend of millennials — especially women — graduating with degrees in physics.
In 1999, the number of physics graduates was at its lowest point in four decades. However, according to the American Institute of Physics, 8,081 bachelor’s degrees in physics were awarded in 2015—the highest number ever recorded. Some theorize the increase is a direct result of more women enrolling in and staying with physics as a major.
“Be optimistic about what you believe you can do,” Pasterski told Marie Claire earlier this year. “When you’re little, you say a lot of things about what you’ll do or be when you’re older—I think it’s important not to lose sight of those dreams.”