Selection Committee

  • Ian Agol

    Ian Agol

    Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley

    Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics Laureate

    Ian Agol won the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. He received a BS in mathematics at Caltech in 1992 and a PhD from UC San Diego in 1998. He was appointed assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001 and moved to UC Berkeley in 2007. He received the Clay Research Award along with Danny Calegari and David Gabai in 2009 for the solution of the tameness conjecture in Kleinian groups. He received the Veblen Prize in 2013 along with Dani Wise for work on the virtual Haken conjecture.

  • 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.

  • Pascale Ehrenfreund, PhD

    Pascale Ehrenfreund, PhD

    President, Committee on Space Research COSPAR

    Pascale Ehrenfreund is also the President of the International Space University and Research Professor at the Space Policy Institute/George Washington University in Washington DC. She is a member of the Global Future Council on Space of the World Economic Forum and serves on the Board of Directors of the Space Foundation. For three decades she contributed as Principal Investigator, Co-Investigator and Teamleader to ESA and NASA astronomy and planetary missions as well as experiments in low Earth orbit and on the International Space Station. Pascale Ehrenfreund is enlisted in the Stanford World Ranking Top 2% Scientists 2022 and holds a Master degree in Molecular Biology, a PhD in Astrophysics, and a Master degree in Management & Leadership. The asteroid "9826 Ehrenfreund 2114 T-3" bears her name.

  • John Grunsfeld, PhD

    John Grunsfeld, PhD

    Astronaut, Associate Administrator for Science, Chief Scientist at NASA Headquarters

    John M. Grunsfeld is an astronaut and scientist with extensive experience as a leader in space and science missions, and national space policy. He has served as a NASA astronaut, the Associate Administrator for Science, Chief Scientist at NASA Headquarters and as the Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Grunsfeld’s scientific research is in planetary science and the emerging field of exoplanet studies with specific interest in future astronomical instrumentation, and the search for life beyond Earth. He is most well known as the Hubble Repairman and for calling in to the NPR radio show “Car-Talk” from space.

    Grunsfeld joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1992. He is veteran of five space shuttle flights, (STS-67, STS-81, STS-103, STS-109, and STS-125) of which three flights were to the Hubble Space Telescope. He performed eight spacewalks to service and upgrade the Hubble observatory. He has logged more than 58 days in space on his shuttle missions, including 58 hours and 30 minutes of spacewalk time. In 2004-2005, he served as the commander and science officer on the backup crew for Expedition 13 to the International Space Station.

    In 2015 Grunsfeld was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and is a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society. He has received numerous awards including the National Space Trophy, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Leadership Medal, and the AIAA Education Award.

    Dr. Grunsfeld graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in physics. He earned a master's degree and, in 1988, a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago. From Chicago, he joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology as a Senior Research Fellow in Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. After his astronaut career he was appointed a Professor of Physics at the Johns Hopkins University in 2010.

  • 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.

  • Jeffery W. Kelly

    Jeffery W. Kelly

    Professor of Chemistry, Scripps Research Institute

    Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Laureate

    Jeffery W. Kelly won the 2022 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his transformative work on neurodegenerative and cardiac transthyretin diseases, and for developing tafamidis, a drug that slows their progression. A central focus of his research is to understand the principles of protein folding and to comprehend the basis for misfolding such that he can develop novel therapeutic strategies using chemistry, biophysical and biological approaches.

  • Scott Kelly

    Scott Kelly


    Scott Kelly is a retired American astronaut and United States Navy Captain, U.S. spaceflight record holder and an experienced test pilot having logged more than 15,000 hours of flight time in more than 40 different aircraft and spacecraft. A former fighter pilot, Kelly flew the F-14 Tomcat in VF-143, The World Famous Pukin Dogs.

    Kelly was selected by NASA as an astronaut in 1996. A veteran of four space flights, he piloted and commanded the space shuttle, and commanded the International Space Station on two separate occasions, including NASA’s unprecedented yearlong mission. On his final mission, Kelly broke two spaceflight records, one of which he currently holds for longest consecutive time for an American in space.

    His first of four space missions in 1999 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery was an eight-day mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. He commanded Space Shuttle Endeavour on a mission to the International Space Station in 2007. He returned to command the orbiting laboratory in 2010 on a 159-day mission and again in 2015 where he spent 340 days in space on a mission that included more than 400 scientific experiments. He conducted three spacewalks before returning home in March 2016. Kelly traveled more than one-hundred million miles on his year-in-space mission, completing 5,440 orbits of the Earth.

    Kelly has received many awards and honors, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross. He was on the cover of TIME Magazine in December 2014 and was named one of its 100 Most Influential People in 2015. Kelly also was recognized at the 2015 State of the Union Address by United States President Barrack Obama.

    Kelly is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and a member of the Association of Space Explorers.

    Kelly was appointed Champion for Space by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. As Champion for Space, Kelly will help raise awareness of UNOOSA’s activities for an initial period of two years.

  • 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 for researchers. Over 20 million researchers use to share and discover research, build their networks, and advance their careers. Ijad earned his doctorate in the field of virology from Medizinische Hochschule Hannover 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. Ijad founded ResearchGate in 2008, together with fellow physician Sören Hofmayer and computer scientist Horst Fickenscher. In 2018, Ijad became an advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel as a member of her Digital Council, and he continues to advise the German government on digitalization topics today.

  • Nicole Stott

    Nicole Stott

    Astronaut, Artist, Earthling

    Co-Founder of the Space for Art Foundation

    Nicole is an astronaut, aquanaut, artist, author, and most importantly a mom. She creatively combines the awe and wonder of her spaceflight experience with her artwork to inspire everyone’s appreciation of our role as crewmates here on Spaceship Earth.

    Nicole is a veteran NASA Astronaut with two spaceflights and 104 days living and working in space as a crewmember on both the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle. Personal highlights of her time in space include performing a spacewalk (10th woman to do so), controlling the robotic arm to capture the first free-flying cargo ship, working with her international crew in support of the multi-disciplinary science onboard the orbiting laboratory, painting the first watercolor in space (now on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum), and of course the life-changing view of our planetary home.

    Nicole is also a NASA Aquanaut. In preparation for spaceflight, she was a crewmember on an 18-day saturation dive mission at the Aquarius undersea laboratory.

    Nicole believes that the international model of peaceful and successful cooperation we have experienced in the extreme environments of space and sea holds the key to the same kind of peaceful and successful cooperation for all of humanity here on Earth.

    On her post-NASA mission, she is a co-founder of the Space for Art Foundation – uniting a planetary community of children through the awe and wonder of space exploration and the healing power of art.

  • Andrew Strominger

    Andrew Strominger

    Professor of Physics, Harvard University

    Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Laureate

    Andrew Strominger was a co-recipient of the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity. Other honors include the Dirac Medal, the Klein Medal, the Heineman Prize, the Eisenbud Prize and fellowship in the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His scientific contributions include the Calabi-Yau compactification of string theory, the microscopic origin of the Bekenstein-Hawking black hole entropy and the quantum structure of Kerr black holes. Strominger was featured in the 2020 documentary film “Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know,” along with his colleagues, including Stephen Hawking.

  • Terence Tao

    Terence Tao

    Professor of Mathematics, UCLA

    Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics Laureate

    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 School Media Arts Program

    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.