15 Student Finalists Reach the Last Round of Yuri Milner’s 2023 Breakthrough Junior Challenge

On 21 September 2023, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge announced its latest cohort of finalists. Combining their passion for creativity and science, these 15 students have made brilliant videos that each explain a major concept in the life sciences, maths, or physics.

This is the ninth annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge. Yuri Milner launched the competition in 2015, the same year that he and Stephen Hawking announced the Breakthrough Initiatives. Yuri Milner is also a founding sponsor of the Breakthrough Prize and the author of Eureka Manifesto.

Gigantic Prizes for Breakthrough Junior Challenge Winners

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global initiative that inspires young people to engage in science. The competition supports career choices in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The Challenge also sparks the imagination of the public through the applicants’ informative, entertaining short videos.

The 2023 Breakthrough Junior Challenge opened for video applications on 1 April 2023. More than 2,400 students aged 13-18 submitted videos this year in the hopes of becoming the Challenge winner and securing these incredible prizes:

  • A $250,000 scholarship for post-secondary education.
  • $50,000 for the teacher who inspired the winner.
  • A new science lab for the winner’s school worth $100,000.

Past winners to receive these prizes include Noor Haideri, Amber Kwok, and Maryam Tsegaye.

Haideri won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2022 for her video about the impact blue light has on our sleep cycle. Kwok became the winner in 2021 thanks to her clever video explaining van der Waals and Casimir forces. And Tsegaye won in 2020 with a fun, educational video on quantum tunnelling.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge Judging Process

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge assesses each student’s video based on how well the video communicates a difficult scientific idea in an imaginative, engaging, illuminating way.

To make it to the final round of the competition, applicants’ videos must pass four judging phases: the Peer-to-Peer Review, the Evaluation Panel Review, the Popular Vote, and the Selection Committee Review.

The Peer-to-Peer Review sees applicants review at least five of the other contestants’ videos. Next, scholars and science leaders from around the world come together to review the top 75 videos from the Peer to Peer Review in the Evaluation Panel. Each of these videos receives at least another five reviews.

During the Popular Vote, the public votes for their favourite semi-finalists by “liking” their videos on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook and YouTube pages. This year, the 30 videos in the Popular Vote reached more than 500,000 people, helping spread scientific ideas around the world.

The Popular Vote round produces a regional champion for each of the seven geographic regions and an overall top scorer. The top scorer goes straight to the final round of judging, joining the other finalists.

The Selection Committee Review chooses up to five entries for final consideration. This committee comprises leading scholars and scientists, including:

  • Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.
  • Former space and science correspondent Rachel Crane.
  • University of California mathematics professor Ian Agol. Agol is also a Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics laureate.
  • UCLA professor and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics laureate Terence Tao.
  • Breakthrough Foundation Chairman Pete Worden. Worden is also the executive director of Breakthrough Starshot, one of Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives. Starshot has plans to develop and send tiny space probes to our neighbouring star system Alpha Centauri. The other Breakthrough Initiatives include Listen, Watch, Message, and Discuss.

Learn about the Breakthrough Junior Challenge 2023 finalists.

About Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner is an entrepreneur, investor, and science philanthropist. He founded the investment firm DST Global, which has supported prominent internet companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Alibaba.

After signing the Giving Pledge in 2012, Yuri Milner established the Breakthrough Foundation to help organise and fund his philanthropic projects. These projects include the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, the Breakthrough Prize, the Breakthrough Initiatives, and Tech For Refugees.