Press Release

Breakthrough Prize Announces Student Semifinalists in Third Annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge

By SpaceRef Editor
October 27, 2017
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The Breakthrough Prize today announced the top 29 student semifinalists in the third annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, and kicked off the ‘Popular Vote’ portion of the global competition, posting all videos online for public review on the Breakthrough Facebook page.
The 29 semifinalists represent the top submissions following a review by an evaluation panel, in addition to top scorers from each of eight geographical regions. The eight regions are: North America (US / Canada), Central America/Mexico/Caribbean, South America, Europe, Asia (including China), India, Middle East/Africa, Australia/New Zealand.
In total, the 29 semifinalists hail from all around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, India, Mexico, Spain, United Arab Emirates, Panama, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Republic of Korea, Lebanon, the Philippines, Bolivia and Belgium.
The 2017 installment of the global competition attracted more than 11,000 registrants – from 178 countries – and resulted in more than 3,200 video submissions. The contest is designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, or mathematics.
All 29 semifinalists will compete in the ‘Popular Vote’ contest, open until Thursday, November 2 at 11:59 PM PT.  The ‘Popular Vote’ contest invites the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission on the Breakthrough Facebook page. Votes can be cast by “liking,” “sharing,” or issuing a “positive reaction” to the videos on the official Breakthrough Prize Facebook page.  The top scorer in the ‘Popular Vote’ challenge will receive automatic entry into the finalist round, which will be revealed on Friday, November 3. 
The finalists will be reviewed by the Selection Committee, comprised of: Breakthrough Prize laureates; Salman Khan, CEO, Founder, Khan Academy; author and educator Lucy Hawking; Dr. Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and Principal, 100 Year Starship; 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; Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study; Rachel Crane, Space and Science Correspondent, CNN; John Hardy, Professor of Neuroscience, University College London; Ijad Madisch, CEO, Co-Founder, ResearchGate; Jason Silva, National Geographic Channel Television Host, Filmmaker; 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.
The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be announced at the 2017 Breakthrough Prize ceremony in early December, and will be awarded a $250,000 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.
For the third 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 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.
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.
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The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was launched in December 2015 by Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician and founder and CEO of The Primary School in East Palo Alto. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a philanthropic organization dedicated to advancing human potential and promoting equal opportunity through world class engineering, grantmaking, impact investing, policy, and advocacy work. Initial areas of focus include supporting science through basic biomedical research and education through personalized learning. CZI is also exploring ways to build stronger, more equitable communities through affordable housing and criminal justice reform.
Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a nonprofit with a mission to provide 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, and we are the official practice partner for AP. 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 10 million people around the globe learn on Khan Academy each month. 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.
For press inquiries only, please contact:
Emily Gest, Direct: +212-843-8061
Kristen Bothwell, Direct: +1-212-843-9227

SpaceRef staff editor.