Finalists Announced In Breakthrough Junior Challenge

November 10, 2016 - (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize today announced its finalists in the second annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a group of 15 impressive students that includes the top scorer of the online ‘Popular Vote’ portion of the global competition.

The finalists are: Hillary Diane Andales, 17 (Philippines); Victor Cardenas, 15 (Venezuela); Owen Cuseo, 17 (United States); Diego García Figueroa, 17 (Colombia); Alan Huang, 17 (United States); Seung-Bin Joo, 13 (Korea); Diogo Afonso Leitão, 14 (Brazil); Antonella Masini, 18 (Peru); Kaustav Mehta, 15 (India); Aaron Morgan, 14 (United States); Nicole Mut, 15 (United States); Sebastian Piedra, 18 (Costa Rica); Davina Potkidis, 17 (Canada); Bradley Ritschel, 18 (United States); Deanna See, 16 (Singapore). All videos can be viewed at

Andales was the top scorer in the ‘Popular Vote’ contest with an approximate total of more than 40,000 likes, shares and positive reactions, and her video received more than 300,000 views on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page. The ‘Popular Vote’ contest ran from Monday, October 31 to Wednesday, November 9, on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, and invited the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission by “liking,” “sharing,” or issuing a “positive reaction.” Collectively, the 30 semifinalist videos were viewed more than one million times on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, expanding minds across the globe.

All 15 finalists are now in the running to be the ultimate winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, which will be announced at the 2017 Breakthrough Prize ceremony on Sunday, December 4. The winning student will be awarded a $250,000 scholarship. The science teacher who inspired the winning student will win $50,000. The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.

More than 6,000 entries – from 146 countries – were received in the 2016 installment of the global competition for science and math students that kicked off on September 1, 2016, and was designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, or mathematics.

The field was reduced to 30 semifinalists, which represented the top submissions after two rounds of judging: first, a mandatory peer review, followed by an evaluation panel of Khan Academy judges. The 30 semifinalists were then reviewed by the Selection Committee, comprised of Breakthrough Prize laureates; author and educator Lucy Hawking; Dr. Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and Principal, 100 Year Starship; and Siddhartha Mukherjee, 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, among others.

For the second year, students ages 13-18 were invited to create original videos (up to five minutes in length) that illustrated a concept or theory in the physical or life sciences. The submissions were evaluated on the students’ ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in the most engaging, illuminating, and imaginative ways.

Last year’s winning submission was from 18-year-old Ryan Chester, of North Royalton High School, Ohio. Ryan’s video, titled “Some Cool Ways to Understand the Special Theory of Relativity and What it Means About Time,” explored Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity and was noted by judges for its humor and personality. The video was similarly popular among Ryan’s peers, and received close to four million online views. In September, Ryan enrolled at Harvard University.

Breakthrough Junior Challenge is funded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri and Julia Milner, through the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, based on a grant from Mark Zuckerberg’s fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and a grant from the Milner Global Foundation.

Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global initiative to develop and demonstrate young people’s knowledge of science and scientific principles; generate excitement in these fields; support STEM career choices; and engage the imagination and interest of the public-at-large in key concepts of fundamental science.

The Breakthrough Prize

Founded in 2012 by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, the Breakthrough Prize is an annual award honoring outstanding achievements in life sciences, physics and mathematics. The prize aims to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. Laureates of each prize are chosen by the respective Selection Committee comprised of previous recipients of the prize. In November 2014, two of its founders, Yuri Milner and Mark Zuckerberg, announced the New Horizons in Mathematics Prize for up-and-coming mathematicians, to run alongside the existing New Horizons in Physics Prize.

For more information on the Breakthrough Prizes:


The Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a nonprofit with a mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. We believe learners of all ages should have unlimited access to free educational content they can master at their own pace. We use intelligent software, deep data analytics and intuitive user interfaces to help students and teachers around the world. Our resources cover preschool through early college education, including math, biology, chemistry, physics, economics, finance, history, grammar and more. We offer free personalized SAT test prep in partnership with the test developer, the College Board. Khan Academy has been translated into dozens of languages, and 100 million people use our platform worldwide every year. For more information, visit, join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @khanacademy. And remember, you can learn anything.

The Breakthrough Prize Lab for the winning student’s school is designed by and in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). Established in 1890, CSHL has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education. Its New York campus boasts 1100 faculty, students and employees and hosts over 12,000 visiting scientists each year for world-renowned conferences and courses. CSHL’s DNA Learning Center is the world’s largest provider of student lab instruction in molecular genetics and teacher training. Materials and methods developed by the DNA Learning Center are accessible for free through more than 20 award-winning educational websites. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a science policy think tank and a graduate program in biological sciences. Visit

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge has also partnered with National Geographic to help reach science and math enthusiasts, educators, and students around the globe. The National Geographic Channels US are a joint venture between National Geographic and Fox Cable Networks. The Channels contribute to the National Geographic Society's commitment to exploration, conservation and education with smart, innovative programming and profits that directly support its mission.


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