Punahou Senior Virtually Meets Renowned Astrophysicist

Punahou senior Stephanie Yoshida ’21 participated in a virtual Q&A session with acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson last week, as part of an international event on quantum science.

Yoshida, who was featured in the spring Punahou Bulletin about her accomplishments in astronomy, was one of four students from across the country – and the only high school student – invited to be a part of the Q&A at the Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator. The online gathering, hosted by Innovare Advancement Center, included teams from 36 of the world’s top universities who pitched proposals for quantum-based technologies.

A correspondent from the Air Force Research Lab in New York reached out to Yoshida after learning of her achievements in the field of astronomy, particularly her discovery of a rare double star system. She woke up at 4 a.m. to participate in the East Coast event and said it was well worth it to hear Tyson’s keynote presentation on quantum physics and ask him a question. There was only time for two questions, and, fortunately, Yoshida was first.

She asked Tyson how advances in technology might help scientists find signs of extraterrestrial life in the universe. “Dr. Tyson was very nice and answered my question well and elaborately,” she said. “Hearing from the perspective of an accomplished and knowledgeable astrophysicist was just so cool.”

Tyson had some words of encouragement for Yoshida after hearing about her achievements when she was introduced by the event’s presenter. “You don’t need any help from me, clearly, because you’re already in the rocket and the engines are ignited,” Tyson said.

Tyson’s presentation was a reminder as to why science is so important for the world, Yoshida said. “Humans would not be where we are today without it. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to participate in this event, as it was absolutely incredible!”

Stephanie Yoshida’s ’21 introduction and question to Neil deGrasse Tyson begin around 1:59.

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