Breakthrough Junior Challenge Announces 2020 Finalists

September 22, 2020 – (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced the finalists in the sixth annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a group of 15 impressive students from around the world who created short videos about big ideas in life sciences, physics, mathematics, and a new COVID-19 category. The finalists include the top scorers of the ‘Popular Vote’ portion of the global competition which reached close to 2 million people during a 15-day contest.

The finalists are:

  • Ria Balli, 17, United States
  • Kavya Bhat, 16, India
  • Ana Calina, 17, Romania
  • Jeff Winxin Collado, 17, Philippines
  • Atticus Fehr, 17, United States
  • Abbie Jin, 17, United States
  • Andrew Li, 16, United States
  • Weber Lin, 15, United States
  • Michael Nixon, 17, Australia
  • Gianni Petrillo, 17, United States
  • Ramez Rizk, 17, Egypt
  • Lydia Taylor, 17, United States
  • Maryam Tsegaye, 17, Canada
  • Janessa Unseld, 17, United States
  • Sigil Wen, 17, Canada

All videos can be viewed at

The Popular Vote contest ran from September 5 to September 20 on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, and invited the public to support their favorite submission by “liking” and “sharing” it. Collectively, the 30 semifinalist videos reached close to 2 million people, helping to teach and inspire minds across the globe.

Ramez Rizk of Eygpt was the top scorer in the Popular Vote contest with his video on string theory. Jeff Winxin Collado of the Philippines was the top scorer of those videos relating to COVID-19 and pandemic science for his video on zoonotic spillovers. Rizk and Collado will receive automatic entry into the final round of judging.

The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be awarded a $250,000 college scholarship. The science teacher who inspired the winning student will receive a $50,000 prize. The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000. The winner receives the prize at the annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony, alongside new Breakthrough Prize laureates representing some of the most acclaimed scientists in the world. Due to the pandemic the ceremony has been postponed, and is now planned for March 2021.

Additionally, Popular Vote Regional Champions were named for seven geographic regions. They are:

  • Asia: Jeff Winxin Collado, 17, Philppines
  • Australia / Oceania: Noah Wildman, 18, Australia
  • Central / South America: Camila Aqueveque, 18, Venezuela
  • Europe: Ana Calina, 17, Romania
  • India: Kavya Bhat, 16, India
  • Middle East / Africa: Ramez Rizk, 17, Egypt
  • North America: Navya Sinha, 17, United States

Since its launch, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached 202 countries, and the 2020 installment attracted more than 5,600 applicants. The contest is designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics. The field was narrowed down to 30 semifinalists, which represented the top submissions after two rounds of judging: first, a mandatory peer review, followed by an evaluation panel of judges.

The finalist videos will be reviewed by the Selection Committee, comprising: Ian Agol, University of California, Berkeley, and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics laureate; Rachel Crane, CNN Space and Science Correspondent; author and educator Lucy Hawking; Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and principal, 100 Year Starship; retired NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly; Sal Khan, founder and CEO, Khan Academy; Ijad Madisch, CEO of ResearchGate; Terence Tao, UCLA, and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics laureate; Esther Wojcicki, founder, Palo Alto High Media Arts Center; Pete Worden, chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation and executive director, Breakthrough Initiatives; and Huda Zoghbi, professor of pediatrics and professor of neuroscience and molecular and human genetics, and Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences laureate.

For the sixth 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. For this year’s challenge, participants had the option of entering a special submission section focused on the science of pandemics. By establishing this new category, contest organizers gave students the option of exploring a number of the themes that ring especially relevant today, including epidemiology, virology, modeling a disease outbreak, the mathematics of exponential growth, immunology, biostatistics, and pandemics such as COVID-19. All videos were evaluated based 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.


The Breakthrough Junior Challenge

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge, founded by Yuri and Julia Milner, is a global science video competition, aiming 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

For the ninth year the Breakthrough Prize, renowned as the “Oscars of Science,” 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, up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes and three Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prizes are given out to early-career 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 were founded by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcicki. The Prizes have been sponsored by the personal foundations established by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Jack Ma, Yuri and Julia Milner and Anne Wojcicki. Selection Committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates in each field choose the winners. Information on Breakthrough Prize 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. Khan Academy’s platform includes more than 70,000 practice problems, as well as videos and articles that cover a range of K–12 subjects. We offer Khan Academy Kids, an award-winning free app for children ages two to seven. Our learning system is mastery based, which allows students to master key concepts at a pace that’s right for them before moving on to more challenging content. We partner with school districts across the country and around the world that serve students who traditionally face barriers to academic success. In the United States, school districts use Khan Academy Districts and MAP Growth Accelerator to help teachers differentiate instruction. Nearly 20 million learners use Khan Academy every month in 190 countries and 46 languages. As a nonprofit, Khan Academy relies on donations from foundations, corporations and individuals around the world, as well as earned revenue. For more information, please see research findings about Khan Academy and our press page.

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 The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society, 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 131 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, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.


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

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Kristen Bothwell, Direct: +1-212-843-9227