Finalists Announced In Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Group Represents Nine Countries And Includes Top Scorer In Online ‘Popular Vote’

September 21, 2018 – (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced the top finalists in the fourth annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a group of 15 impressive students from around the world, as well as the recent top scorer of the online ‘Popular Vote’ portion of the global competition.

The finalists are: Ayesha Ahmed, 18, (Australia); Jason Chen, 15 (United States); Sam Cryan, 18 (United States); Victor Elgersma, 18 (Belgium); Samay Godika, 16 (India); Artem Kirsanov, 17 (Russia); Diogo Afonso Leitão, 16 (Brazil); Luciana Lozano, 14 (Mexico); Srishti Mishra, 17 (Cambodia); Adelyn Moore, 17 (United States); Kavya Negi, 18 (India); HP Park, 16 (Republic of Korea); Grace Patenaude, 15 (United States); Avideep Pradhan, 17 (United States); Nikhiya Shamsher, 16 (India); and Matthew Walak, 18 (United States).

All videos can be viewed at

Nikhiya Shamsher, 16 (India) was the top scorer in the Popular Vote contest with more than 25,000 likes, shares and positive reactions for her video on spacetime and gravity posted on the Breakthrough Facebook page. Shamsher will receive automatic entry into the final round of judging.

One of the 16 entrants will be announced the winner of the 2018 Breakthrough Junior Challenge on the Breakthrough Facebook page, live from the 2018 Breakthrough Prize ceremony in Silicon Valley on Sunday, November 4.

The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be awarded a $250,000 college scholarship. The science teacher who inspired the winning student will win a $50,000 prize. The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.

Additionally, Popular Vote Regional Champions were also named for each of the seven geographic regions. They are: Ayesha Ahmed, 18, Australia (Australia/Oceania; Edgar Baudry, 16, France (Europe); Jean-Paul Khairallah, 18, Lebanon (Middle East/Africa); Luciana Lozano, 14, Mexico (Central America, Mexico, Caribbean, South America); Artem Kirsanov, 17, Russia (Asia); Sam Rothfarb, 16, United States (North America); and Nikhiya Shamsher, 16, India (India).

The Popular Vote contest ran from September 7 to September 20 at 11:59 PM PDT on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, and invited the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission by “liking”, “sharing” or posting a positive reaction.

Since its launch, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached 190 countries, and the 2018 installment of the global competition attracted more than 12,000 registrants. The contest is designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics. The field was reduced to 29 semifinalists, which represented the top submissions after two rounds of judging: first, a mandatory peer review, followed by an evaluation panel of judges.

The 15 finalist videos were chosen by the Selection Committee, comprising: Salman Khan, CEO, Founder, Khan Academy; author and educator Lucy Hawking; Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and Principal, 100 Year Starship; retired NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly; Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study and Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Laureate; Rachel Crane, Space and Science Correspondent, CNN; Huda Zoghbi, Professor of Pediatrics and professor of Neuroscience and Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine and Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Laureate; Ijad Madisch, CEO, Co-Founder, ResearchGate; Pete Worden, Chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation, Executive Director, Breakthrough Starshot; Esther Wojcicki, Founder, Palo Alto High Media Arts Center; and Terence Tao, Professor of Mathematics, UCLA and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics Laureate.

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

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.


Breakthrough Prize

For the seventh year, the Breakthrough Prizes will recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences (up to four per year), Fundamental Physics (one per year) and Mathematics (one per year). In addition, up to three New Horizons in Physics and up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes are given out to junior researchers each year. Laureates attend a live televised award ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions.

The Breakthrough Prizes are sponsored by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki. Selection Committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates in each field choose the winners.

Information on the Breakthrough Prizes is available at

About Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. We use intelligent software, data analytics, and intuitive user interfaces to help students and teachers around the world. Our resources cover math, biology, chemistry, physics, history, economics, finance, grammar, preschool learning, and more. Khan Academy offers free personalized SAT prep in partnership with the College Board. We provide teachers with tools and data so they can help their students develop the skills, habits, and mindsets necessary for success in school and beyond. Khan Academy has been translated into dozens of languages, and 15 million people around the globe learn on Khan Academy each month. For more information, visit, join us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram or Twitter. And remember, you can learn anything.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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

National Geographic Partners LLC

National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between National Geographic and 21st Century Fox, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 129 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27 percent of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information visit or, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.



For more information, including competition rules, video submission guidelines and queries, go to:

For press inquiries only, please contact:
Emily Gest, Direct: +1-212-843-8061
Kristen Bothwell, Direct: +1-212-843-9227