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Faces of America: Genius Edition

Photographer Glenn Glasser met everyday Einsteins at the World Science Festival.

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Bobak Ferdowsi

Pasadena, California
“I’m one of the engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was part of the team for the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012. My parents have always encouraged me to do what I love. They even sent me to space camp, where I had my first kiss! I remember that distinctly- I don’t know if everybody can say that. It’s a pretty nerdy, awesome experience.”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Amanda Gefter

Cambridge, Massachusetts
“When I was a teenager, my father took me out to dinner and asked me how I would define nothing. He’d been thinking about the concept of nothing and how you can get something from nothing and how the universe could have come from nothing. So we had this conversation, and he recruited me to figure out the nature of reality with him. Now I’m a science writer.”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Jonathan Rasouli, MD

New York, New York
“I’ll be a third-year resident in neurosurgery at Mount Sinai. I also play guitar- heavy metal. My heroes? Number one: my dad. He came here from Iran right before the revolution and pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Number two: President Obama. I appreciate someone who is able to overcome a lot of odds without losing touch. Number three: Arnold Schwarzenegger. I love his movies!”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Mike Hopkins

Houston, Texas
“I’ve been to the International Space Station (ISS) once, for 166 days. Space has a smell to it. I don’t know how to describe it—an ionized, metallic-type smell that’s unique. When we first opened the hatch of the ISS, I commented on the scent, and the folks I was with said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the smell of space.’ No one told me about that.”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Brian Greene

New York, New York
“To me, geniuses are people who can look at something everyone else looks at and see it differently. They take the world and rearrange it in a way that, when they’re done, you stand back in awe.”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Dr. John Raiti

Providence, Rhode Island
“One of our primary projects is robots for the disabled. I collaborate with quadriplegics from around the world, and through head-mounted eye trackers (basically a reflective dot on their eyeglasses), they can fly drones in our lab on Brown’s campus—right from their beds!”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Camille W. Alleyne

New York, New York
“I am an assistant program scientist for the International Space Station. My passion was space, even before I knew it. At age six or seven, I would stargaze every night from the trunk of my dad’s car. I didn’t even know what I was doing, but I did realize that i was setting the trajectory for my life in those moments.”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Art Chimielewski

New York, New York
“I always got in trouble with my English papers, even in college, because I would veer off and write about Mars. My teacher would comment, “There was nothing about Mars in this book! Why are you writing about Mars?!” Now I work for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA, and my next mission is to drop a lander on a comet.”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Alan Guth

New York, New York
“I’m known for the formulation of the inflationary universe theory. In the fall of 1979, I happened into a lecture given by Bob Dickey [a well-known physicist and cosmologist] on something called the flatness problem, which has to do with the fine-tuning that’s required in the conventional big bang theory. What he told us was that if you thought about the expansion rate of the universe at one second after the big bang, it had to be to an accuracy of 14 decimal places or else it wouldn’t work. If it were just one unit higher in the 14th decimal place, the universe would be expanding so fast that it would fly apart before any galaxies could form. And if it was one digit smaller than the 14th decimal place, then the universe would have very quickly recollapsed, and there never would have been time for galaxies or life to form.”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Elizabeth Kennic

New York, New York
“We put teachers in zero gravity. We give them glider lessons with a former space shuttle commander and teach them how to design experiments for the International Space Station.”

Glenn Glasser for Reader's Digest

Dr. Richard Stahl

Florida State University
“I have my master’s degree in gifted education and work with a program that educates teachers and parents on how to work with gifted children. When I talk with gifted people almost invariably they say, ‘I learned in spite of the school system, not because of it.’ They say, ‘the best thing a teacher has ever done for me is realize that there’s nothing they could do for me, and therefore they stayed out of my way.'”

Originally Published in Reader's Digest