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From Flying Paper Airplanes to Satellites Over the Horizons

Wednesday October 26, 2022

Imagine the impact you can have on the world with indefinite curiosity. Meet Jeremiah Pate, SARSEF alumnus and board member, recipient of Forbes 30 under 30, and founder of Lunasonde. Developing a passion for STEM at a very young age, Jeremiah found himself participating in science fairs since the first grade. His research focused on the physics of cloud formation to determining which molecule could treat and reverse Parkinson’s disease to support an immediate medical need of a family friend.

Jeremiah’s journey with SARSEF began early, creating a project out of paper airplane designs in first grade to see which one would fly the furthest. He entered the science fair every year, but it wasn’t until high school where his passion for science took off.

Every year, Jeremiah Pate’s research projects were in a different category, but were equally important to global needs. In high school, Pate’s SARSEF research projects led him to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) every year, shaping his passion for research. His final project applied to support the immediate medical need of a family friend. He watched the devastating impact the disease had as they went through their silent struggle and made a promise to their families that he would dedicate his final SARSEF science fair project to research in Parkinson’s disease. The determination and outcome was successfully achieved in a Drosophila model .

To the right is Jeremiah Pate at ISEF. He won a total of $8,000 in cash prizes, was awarded the opportunity to attend the Nobel Prize festivities and the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS), and an offer of a four-year University of Arizona Scholarship worth $40,000.

Today, Jeremiah Pate is working towards making the underground world visible, fundamentally transforming our understanding of the planet we live on. This technology will revolutionize the way we find resources such as water, minerals, and geothermal energy. We had the opportunity to interview Jeremiah Pate and learn more about his experience with SARSEF and STEM journey.

What was your relationship to science growing up?

I was always infinitely curious about the world and the intricacy of its components; science allowed an invaluable lens to view everything from tiny molecules to the beauty the promise of space. My family encouraged science outreach participation and research that allowed my relationship with STEM to grow.

How did your interest in science develop?

Throughout my lifetime, I remember reading about the great scientists of the past; each strived to push the boundaries of the known. I wanted to be just like them, and life experiences increased my desire to follow. Watching the space shuttle launch sparked my interest in space; I was only two at the time. SARSEF gave me an avenue take an idea every year and turn it into a viable scientific solution.

What was the first project you presented at the SARSEF Fair?

I started participating in science fairs during first grade. The Pima Air and Space Museum was a common weekend destination; so, my first presentation dealt with aerodynamics. The project researched the types of paper airplane designs and the backyard experimentation to prove which design would fly furthest. 

Can you talk more about the research you completed in high school?

The projects completed in high school ironically lead to other experience in my life. Every one of these SARSEF/ISEF projects were in a different category, but was equally important to global needs. My first-year project highlighted research about the physics of cloud formation; this research would later qualify me to participate in an international project to map noctilucent clouds.  The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was the basis of my second project’s research; AMELIA was an aircraft system acting as avionics black box on the cloud. During my junior year in high school, I researched and created an optical encryption system. My fourth and final SARSEF/ISEF project was my favorite, as it applied to an immediate medical need of a family friend. This project focused on determining which molecule could treat and reverse Parkinson’s disease; this determination/outcome was successfully achieved a in a Drosophila model.

What was it like being a Finalist at ISEF?

Participation in ISEF was one of the most memorable experiences of my life; each of the four years shaped my passion for research. I consider participation in ISEF as my first introduction to the global scientific community. It was remarkable to meet like-minded young scientists from all around the world and to witness the incredible research each conducted at the dawn of their careers. To be a member of these alumni is an extreme honor.

How did you choose your career?

As previously mentioned, my fascination with space exploration began at age two. At that time, I had no clue about physics or science; however, watching the launch of the space shuttle engrained that space research would be a big part of my life.  Hypothesizing about the options space holds and applied solutions to push the boundaries of the known opened many doors to entrepreneurship.

Talk a little bit about your current work.

I am the founder and CEO of Lunasonde, which is working towards taking an MRI scan of planet Earth. Our team designs/creates satellites that collect data deep beneath the Earth’s surface. This technology will revolutionize the way we find resources such as water, minerals, and geothermal energy.

Can you walk me through a typical day for you as a startup founder?                                          

The one thing that a founder must remember is to be adaptable; so, each day is quite different.  A startup is much like a team, so accessibility throughout the entire week to problem solve is very important. My typical CEO days may begin speaking with potential investors or participating in employee-related meetings. Over the past year, the company participated in quite a few accelerators, which are primarily through ZOOM; each requires the application of organization and communication. We are currently working on new technology that requires testing and many late hours.  Startup founders are responsible for both operational and financial interactive strategies. We have increased our phenomenal team based out of Tucson, and now have a presence in Washington DC; so networking and continual communication are evolving. We have special projects in the works and another launch in May of next year. So, typical is not yet in our vocabulary right now.

What advice do you have for students currently considering a career in science?

Science is the key that unlocks everything in life. A career in science is extremely rewarding; however, I would recommend choosing a STEM path that is of interest. A science career that that sparks creativity and excitement takes an interest and morphs it into a life-long career.

What do you do for fun?

I earned my private pilot’s license as a teenager and have enjoyed flying sailplanes ever since. Although spare time is at a minimum right now, I enjoy practicing/participating Krav Maga in my free time.

Thank you Jeremiah Pate for your interview, insight, and knowledge you bring to the world of science!

If you would like to know more about SARSEF and how you can become engaged in STEM, volunteer for our organization, or donate, visit us at (https://sarsef.org/)