Press Release

Finalists Announced in Breakthrough Junior Challenge

By SpaceRef Editor
September 23, 2019
Filed under , ,

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 who have created short videos about big ideas in science or math; as well as the recent top scorer of the online ‘Popular Vote’ portion of the global competition.


The finalists are: Calvin Bradbury-Jost, 18 (Canada); Jeffery Chen, 17 (United States); Brooklyn Clark, 18 (United States); Jared Gracia-David, 18 (United States); Krisha Jivani, 17 (United States); Aditya Joshi, 17 (India); Chris Lakin, 17 (United States); Branko Malaver-Vojvodic, 18 (Peru); Rhea Mitr, 16 (United States); HP Park, 17 (Republic of Korea); Larson Rivera, 18 (United States); Ian Shen-Costello, 18 (United States); Shruti Siva, 15 (United States); Mandy Tran, 17 (United States); Venkata Hasith Vattikuti, 15 (United States); and Aria Vikram, 15 (India).


All videos can be viewed at

Branko Malaver-Vojvodic, 18, of Peru, was the top scorer in the Popular Vote contest with more than 16,000 likes, shares and positive reactions for his video on cryptography posted on the Breakthrough Facebook page. Malaver-Vojvodic will receive automatic entry into the final round of judging.


One of these 16 entrants will be announced the winner of the 2019 Breakthrough Junior Challenge live from the annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony in Silicon Valley on Sunday, November 3.

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: Taegan Charles, 17, Australia (Australia/New Zealand); Ishaan Vohra, 13, UK (Europe); Deram Tamir AlTabbaa, 17, Saudia Arabia (Middle East/Africa); Branko Malaver-Vojvodic, 18, Peru (Central America/Mexico/Caribbean/ South America); Aldrean Paul Alogon, 18, Philippines (Asia); Krisha Jivani, 17, United States (USA/Canada); and Aditya Joshi, 17, India (India).


The Popular Vote contest ran from September 5 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 to it. Collectively, during the 15-day contest, the 30 videos reached more than 500,000 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 199 countries, and the 2019 installment of the global competition attracted more than 11,000 registrants. 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 15 finalist videos were determined after the Selection Committee review, by judges  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; Ian Agol, professor of mathematics, University of California, Berkeley and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics 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 Initiatives; Esther Wojcicki, founder, Palo Alto High Media Arts Center; and Terence Tao, professor of mathematics, UCLA and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics laureate.

For the fifth 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 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.


# # #



Breakthrough Prize

For the eighth year, the Breakthrough Prizes will recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. 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 Prize is available at

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 free resources include practice questions, quizzes, videos and articles. We offer preschool through early college learning on a range of academic subjects, including math, sciences and the humanities. Our mastery learning system allows teachers to tailor instruction for every student. We offer free personalized SAT practice in partnership with the College Board and free personalized LSAT prep in collaboration with the Law School Admission Council. Khan Academy has been translated into 36 languages, and 18 million people learn on Khan Academy every month. As a nonprofit organization, Khan Academy relies upon donations from foundations, corporations and individuals around the world. For more information, please visit, or join us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.


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 Disney 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 on FacebookTwitterInstagram, YouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.



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


For press inquiries only, please contact:

Emily Gest, Direct: +212-843-8061

Kristen Bothwell, Direct: +212-843-9227

SpaceRef staff editor.