Selection Committee

  • Nima Arkani-Hamed

    Nima Arkani-Hamed

    Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study

    Nima Arkani-Hamed is one of the leading particle physicists of his generation, whose insights have spanned quantum field theory, supersymmetry and string theory. Among his many contributions, he has shown how the extreme weakness of gravity, relative to other forces of nature, might be explained by the existence of extra dimensions of space, into which some of the gravity might ‘leak.’ He has taken a lead in proposing new physical theories that can be tested at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and is Director of the Center for Future High Energy Physics in Beijing, which is designing a particle accelerator that would be the largest and most powerful ever built. Nima was an inaugural winner of the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, and his other prizes include the Sackler Prize, the Gribov Medal and the INFN-Pisa Gamberini prize.

  • Rachel Crane

    Rachel Crane

    Space and Science Correspondent, CNN

    Rachel Crane is the space and science correspondent for CNN. Rachel creates original video content to be shown across CNN’s platforms, including the original series, City of Tomorrow, which highlights innovations in cities around the world, Elon Evolution, which explores the greatest problems plaguing the globe with Elon Musk, Pioneers with Rachel Crane, which profiles the great minds who are pushing the boundaries of human achievement, and Way Up There, which takes a deep dive into the future of space exploration. She is a graduate of Princeton University with a bachelor's degree in religious studies. She also received a master's degree in news and documentary film from New York University.

  • John Hardy

    John Hardy

    Professor of Neuroscience, University College London

    John Hardy is a geneticist and molecular biologist whose research interests focus on neurological disease. He has made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer’s disease, including discovering genetic mutations that influence amyloid plaque to build up in the brains of sufferers, and mutations that cause the tangles of ‘tau’ protein that are a marker of Alzheimer’s. His lab has also identified mutations associated with onset and progression of Parkinson’s disease. John is a pioneer in the movement for open access genetic data and open access cell banks. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and his awards include the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Michael J. Fox Foundation award, the MetLife Foundation Award and the Potamkin Prize.

  • Lucy Hawking

    Lucy Hawking

    Author

    Lucy Hawking graduated from Oxford and started her writing career in journalism, working for newspapers, radio and New York Magazine before becoming an author. Her books, the George series, give young readers an exciting and entertaining introduction to the world of science and math. They have been published in over 40 languages and are now in production as an animated TV series. Lucy has been recognized for her work in science and education with several awards, including the Sapio Prize for Popularizing Science and the UNSW medal for Science Communication. She has been awarded a doctorate in science by Queen Mary University London. Lucy is a fellow of the Royal Society, a trustee of the Autism Research Foundation and vice president of the National Star College, an institution dedicated to allowing people with disabilities to realize their potential.

  • Mae Jemison

    Mae Jemison

    Physician, Astronaut, Entrepreneur

    Polymath Mae Jemison is at the forefront of integrating the physical and social sciences with art and culture to solve problems and foster innovation. Jemison leads 100 Year Starship®, a global initiative to ensure the capabilities for human travel to another star within the next 100 years while transforming life on Earth. Jemison served six years as a NASA astronaut and was the first woman of color in the world to go into space. Trained as an engineer, social scientist and dancer, Jemison, a medical doctor, was the Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia. She founded two technology companies and the non-profit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence which designs and implements STEM education experiences. A member of Fortune 500 companies’ boards, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Women’s Hall of Fame, Jemison was voted as one of the top seven women leaders in a presidential ballot national straw poll and was the first astronaut to appear on Star Trek.

  • Salman Khan

    Salman Khan

    CEO, Founder, Khan Academy

    Sal Khan is the Founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a nonprofit with the mission of “providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere”. Khan Academy is a learning platform which is comprised of practice exercises, instructional videos, dashboard analytics and teacher tools which empower learners in and outside of the classroom to study at their own pace. Khan Academy has over 26 million registered students and covers subjects from math to science, history, economics, computer science and more. Khan Academy is being translated into more than 36 languages and is used in 190 countries globally. Khan holds three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has been profiled by 60 Minutes, featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine, and recognized as one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”. In late 2012, Khan released his book The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined.

  • Ijad Madisch

    Ijad Madisch

    CEO, Co-Founder, ResearchGate

    Ijad Madisch is co-founder and CEO of ResearchGate, the professional network that connects the world of science and opens up research to all. Ijad founded ResearchGate in 2008 together with his friends, fellow physician Sören Hofmayer and computer scientist Horst Fickenscher. ResearchGate has since grown to more than 13 million scientists around the world. Ijad earned his doctorate in the field of virology, while also studying computer science on the side. He spent several years working as a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, focusing on tissue engineering and radiology. Under Ijad's leadership, ResearchGate has attracted a group of renowned investors, including Bill Gates, Benchmark, Founders Fund, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and Wellcome Trust.

  • Siddhartha Mukherjee

    Siddhartha Mukherjee

    Author, Physician

    Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller “The Gene” and “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. An assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School.

  • Jason Silva

    Jason Silva

    Television Host, Filmmaker

    Jason Silva is an Emmy-nominated and world renown TV personality, storyteller, filmmaker, and sought-after keynote speaker and futurist. Jason is known for hosting 5 seasons of the Emmy-nominated, global hit TV series Brain Games, on the National Geographic Channel, broadcasted in over 171 countries.

  • Terence Tao

    Terence Tao

    Professor of Mathematics, UCLA

    Terrence Tao was an inaugural winner of the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. He was born in Adelaide, Australia. He has been a professor of mathematics at UCLA since 1999, having completed his PhD under Elias Stein at Princeton in 1996. Terry’s areas of research include harmonic analysis, PDE, combinatorics, and number theory. He has received a number of awards, including the Fields Medal and the MacArthur Fellowship. Terry is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Australian Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

  • Esther Wojcicki

    Esther Wojcicki

    Founder, Palo Alto High Media Arts Center

    Esther Wojcicki is an internationally known journalism teacher and the founder of the Palo Alto High School Media Arts Program, a program that focuses on empowering students through the use of media (newspaper, magazine, yearbook, websites, video production, photography, radio and television). The program started in 1984 with an already established (1918) 6 -8 page newspaper and 19 students; it has grown to become one of the most distinguished and the largest scholastic media programs in the nation today (2016) with 600+ students, five additional teachers, nine publications, and a new 25,000 sq. ft Media Arts Center (2014).

    Esther is a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at MediaX at Stanford, a 2009 MacArthur Foundation Research Fellow; the 2002 California Teacher of the Year by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing; the 2011 Charles O’Malley Award recipient from Columbia Scholastic Press. In 2013, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Palo Alto University, and in 2016 an honorary doctorate from Rhode Island School of Design. In November 2016 she was awarded the MyHero Award for her work in global education. She has been a speaker at multiple conferences including TED (2015), G20 Summit, and Singularity University Summit. She co-authored a popular education book on blended learning entitled Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom (2015) that explains a way to revolutionize education for the digital age. Her focus is on giving students agency in the classroom to empower their creativity and innovation skills. She is also the mother of Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, Janet Wojcicki, Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF Medical School and Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe. She is married to Stanford Physics Professor Stanley Wojcicki. She and her husband are proud graduates of UC Berkeley. They have nine grandchildren.

  • Pete Worden

    Pete Worden

    Chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation, Executive Director, Breakthrough StarShot

    Pete Worden is Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and Executive Director of its Breakthrough Initiatives. Previously he was Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, and research professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, where he earned his PhD. He is a recognized expert on space and science issues and has been a leader in building partnerships between governments and the private sector internationally. Pete has authored or co-authored more than 150 scientific papers in astrophysics and space sciences. He served as a scientific co-investigator for three NASA space science missions – most recently the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph launched in 2013 to study the Sun. He received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for the 1994 Clementine Mission to the moon. Pete was named the 2009 Federal Laboratory Consortium Laboratory Director of the Year and is the recipient of the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Innovator’s Award. Pete is a retired Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force.