Breakthrough Prize Foundation Announces Student Winner of Eighth Annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Noor Haideri, 16, of Overland Park, Kansas, USA, Receives Top Honors and $400,000 in Education Prizes for Original Video about the Impact of Blue Light on Sleep.

February 2, 2023 – (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced Noor Haideri, 16, a high school junior in Overland Park, Kansas, USA, as winner of the eighth annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science video competition designed to inspire creative thinking and communications skills around fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge will award a total of $400,000 in educational prizes for Noor, her biology teacher, and her school. Noor, who has her eyes set on a Harvard MD/PhD program after she graduates high school in 2024, will receive a $250,000 college scholarship. Her inspirational teacher, Dianne M. Dunn, will receive a $50,000 prize. The prize also includes installation of a state-of-the-art science lab at Blue Valley High School, built in 1969.The new lab build-out, designed by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, is valued at $100,000.

Noor received news of her win at a surprise school assembly attended by students, faculty and staff. She will receive her trophy at a gala awards ceremony in Los Angeles this spring, alongside the 2020 and 2021 Breakthrough Junior Challenge winners, Maryam Tsegaye and Amber Kwok.

Noor’s submission (her third since 2020), titled, Melanopsin and ipRGCs, explores the impact of blue light from computer screens on photoreceptors in the retina that can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle – an everyday problem she has observed among sleep-deprived classmates. Her winning video can be viewed here.

“I am so excited that my video has been recognized by Breakthrough’s amazing jury and is reaching so many science-curious students,” Noor said. “I intend to become a physician (like my mom), and a cancer researcher. So winning the Challenge is not only a unbelievable honor, but it will help me make my dreams come true – both personally, and for my school and teachers. I am so deeply grateful.”

“One of the best parts of being an educator is the opportunity to witness students’ growth. Blue Valley High School’s staff is proud that we get to serve Noor and so many students like her, who are filled with curiosity and determination,” said principal Charles Golden. “We are also thrilled that Blue Valley High School will be the recipient of a state-of-the-art science lab where Ms. Dunn and other science faculty will experiment and explore with STEM-curious students for many years to come.”

Since its launch in 2015, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached over 200 countries. This year’s installment attracted more than 2,400 applicants.

“Huge congratulations to Noor and to all who took part in the Challenge,” said Julia Milner, one of the founders of the Breakthrough Prizes. “I’m particularly excited that we are seeing strong participation from creatively talented young women coming into STEM careers.”

“This is Noor’s third video submission to the Breakthrough Junior Challenge and demonstrates both persistence and passion for communicating the wonders of science,” said Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy. “She took a complicated subject matter and made it fun, exciting and relatable. Khan Academy is proud of our ongoing partnership with the Breakthrough Junior Challenge – a contest which encourages young people to conduct hands-on investigation while developing their skills at sharing these discoveries with the world.”

For the eighth year, students ages 13-18 from around the world created original videos (up to 90 seconds in length) that illustrated a concept or theory in the life sciences, physics or mathematics.

This year, 2,400 students from 100+ countries submitted videos by June 25, 2022. After two rounds of judging – first, a mandatory peer review, followed by an evaluation panel – the field was narrowed in September to 30 semifinalists. These 30 competed in a Popular Vote on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, where the public was invited to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission by “liking,” “sharing,” or posting a positive reaction. Collectively, during the 15-day contest, the 30 videos reached more than ½ a million people on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook and YouTube pages helping to teach and inspire minds across the globe.

The 2022 finalist videos were reviewed by the Selection Committee, comprising distinguished scientists including: 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; former NASA astronaut and administrator, John Grunsfeld; Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and principal, 100 Year Starship; Jeffery Kelly, professor of chemistry, Scripps Research Institute and Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences laureate; retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly; Sal Khan, founder and CEO, Khan Academy; Ijad Madisch, co-founder and CEO, ResearchGate; NASA astronaut Nicole Stott; Andrew Strominger, professor of physics, Harvard University, and Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics laureate; 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.

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.

Submissions for the 2023 Challenge open on April 1.


The Breakthrough Junior Challenge

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge, founded by Julia and Yuri Milner, is a global science video competition, aiming to develop and demonstrate young people’s knowledge of science and scientific principles and communications skills; 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

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.

The Breakthrough Prizes were founded by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Julia and Yuri 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, Julia and Yuri 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 platforms include more than 70,000 practice problems, videos and articles that cover a range of preK-12 subjects. Khan Academy’s mastery-based learning system allows students to learn key concepts at a pace that's right for them while allowing them to stay at grade level. Our award-winning free app for young children ages two to eight is Khan Academy Kids. We partner with more than 280 school districts across the country that serve students who are historically under-resourced. Districts use Khan Academy Districts and MAP Accelerator and Khan Academy Kids to help teachers differentiate instruction. Worldwide, more than 145 million registered learners have used Khan Academy in 190 countries and 51 languages. For more information, please see research findings about Khan Academy and our press center.

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


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