Breakthrough Junior Challenge Announces 2021 Finalists

September 21, 2021 – (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced the Finalists in the seventh annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a group of 16 impressive students from around the world who created short videos about big ideas in life sciences, physics, and mathematics, which includes the top scorer of the online ‘Popular Vote’ portion of the global competition, as well as the Populat Vote top scorer in the Space Exploration category.

The Finalists are:

  • Ben Barnes, 18, United States
  • Ava Skye Barton, 16, United States
  • Vicente Farid Chomali Castro, 17, Chile
  • Francine Oren T. Fabricante, 18, Philippines
  • Ellen Jannereth, 18, United States
  • Ari Katz, 18, United States
  • Eojin Kim, 18, Republic of Korea
  • Amber Kwok, 18, Mauritius
  • Holden Liu, 16, Canada
  • Siddhant Makkar, 18, United States
  • Wangari Mbuthia, 18, South Africa
  • Faith Nguyen, 17, United States
  • Michael Nixon, 18, Australia
  • Gornekk Suwattanapong, 17, Thailand
  • Lydia Taylor, 18, United States
  • Amogh Thakkar, 18, United States

All videos can be viewed at

Vicente Farid Chomali Castro, 17, of Chile, was the overall top scorer in the Popular Vote contest with more than 29,000 likes and positive reactions for his video “Bose Einstein Condensates: The Fifth State of Matter.” As a result, Farid will receive automatic entry into the final round of judging that determines the winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge.

Gornekk Suwattanapong, 17, of Thailand, was the Popular Vote top scorer in the Space Exploration category for his video titled “What Do Black Holes Have to do with Time Travel?” Gornekk will get automatic entry to the final Space Exploration judging phase to choose the winner who will be given the opportunity to attend a rocket launch.

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 named for each of the seven geographic regions. They are:

  • South / Central America: Vicente Farid Chomali Castro, 17, Chile
  • India: Abhay Gupta, 16, India
  • Middle East / Africa: Wangari Mbuthia, 18, South Africa
  • North America: Holden Liu, 16, Canada
  • Australia / Oceania: Michael Nixon, 18, Australia
  • Europe: Evan Ritson, 17, Spain
  • Asia: Gornekk Suwattanapong, 17, Thailand

The Popular Vote contest ran from September 5 to September 20 on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, and invited the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission by “liking” or posting a positive reaction to it. Collectively, during the 16-day contest, the 30 videos reached close to one million people on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, helping to teach and inspire minds across the globe.

Since its launch, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached 202 countries, and the 2021 installment of the global competition attracted more than 3400 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 16 top-scoring finalist videos will be reviewed by the Selection Committee, comprising: Ian Agol, professor of mathematics, University of California, Berkeley, and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics laureate; Rachel Crane, space and science correspondent, CNN; Pascale Ehrenfreund, president, International Space University; NASA astronaut and administrator, John Grunsfeld; 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, ResearchGate; NASA astronaut Nicole Stott; Terence Tao, UCLA professor 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.

For the seventh 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 space exploration. The submissions were evaluated based on the students’ ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in the most engaging, illuminating and imaginative ways.

The 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 tenth year, the Breakthrough Prize, renowned as the “Oscars of Science,” recognizes the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics (one per year) and Mathematics (one per year). In addition, up to three New Horizons in Physics Prizes, up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes and up to three Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prizes are given out to early-career researchers each year. Laureates attend a gala 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 the 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. Our platform includes more than 70,000 practice problems as well as videos and articles that cover a range of K-12 subjects. Khan Academy allows students to learn 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 are historically under-resourced. In the United States, school districts use Khan Academy Districts and MAP Accelerator to help teachers differentiate instruction. Khan Academy Kids is an award-winning free app for children ages two to eight. Nearly 20 million learners use Khan Academy every month in 190 countries and 50 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 (CSHL)

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

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab provides end-to-end mission services, including complete satellite build and launch solutions, that provide rapid, frequent and reliable access to space. Rocket Lab will launch thousands of small satellites to orbit, enabling vital science, research and services from orbit including weather monitoring, communications, technology demonstrations and Earth-observation.

Play Magnus Group

Play Magnus Group is a global leader in the chess industry focused on providing premier digital experiences for millions of chess players and students. The company offers e-learning and entertainment services via its market leading brands: chess24, Chessable, iChess, CoChess, the Play Magnus App Suite, and the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour. The Group’s mission is to grow chess to make the world a smarter place by encouraging more people to play, watch, study, and earn a living from chess.


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

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