Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge: Top 15 Finalists

breakthrough junior challenge

Top 15 Finalists of Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge Enter Final Judging Stage.

Since closing its 2023 Popular Vote, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has now announced its finalists and Popular Vote regional champions. The Popular Vote winners each garnered the most social media engagement on their videos in their respective regions. The top-scoring Popular Vote winner, Hans de los Santos, has joined the other 14 finalists in the last stage of judging.

Eureka Manifesto author Yuri Milner is the brain behind the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. This is just one of his philanthropic offerings. He is also a co-founder of the Breakthrough Prize, Breakthrough Initiatives, and Tech For Refugees. Since signing the Giving Pledge in 2012, agreeing to support primarily scientific causes, he has provided substantial funding and support for these non-profits.

As usual, this year, Breakthrough Junior Challenge entrants have covered fascinating topics in their videos. These topics span from machine learning and neural networks to using viruses to cure diseases.

Now, the final 15 contestants wait to find out who will win the Challenge’s amazing prizes. These prizes include a $250,000 college scholarship, a $100,000 science lab for their school, and $50,000 for a teacher who inspired them.

Meet Some of the 2023 Breakthrough Junior Challenge Finalists

The 2023 finalists include 17-year-old Conner Sisemore from the U.S. Sisemore’s video, “A Maize Called GMO,” explains the difference between selective breeding and genetically modifying organisms. Sisemore focuses on how and why some agricultural businesses use genetic modification to grow full-sized, healthy crops.

Another finalist, Ishanth Srinivas, also aged 17 and from the U.S., discusses a concept called “Bose-Einstein condensate” in his video. He uses ping pong balls to unpick this physics concept, explaining that reducing the temperature of a group of bosons would create Bose-Einstein condensate.

Meanwhile, Jeffrin Mario, aged 17, from the United Arab Emirates, is the Middle East and Africa regional champion. His video attracted more likes and comments on the Breakthrough Prize YouTube channel and Facebook page than any other entrant’s video in this region.

Mario’s video explains how scientists can use metamaterials to manipulate light, acoustic, and electromagnetic waves. With metamaterials, we could theoretically create a real invisibility cloak. Mario explains that scientists already have — he introduces an invisibility cloak that researchers created in 2015 using negative refraction.

The Final Stage of the Competition Is Underway

Now that the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has announced its finalists, the Selection Committee will review these finalists’ videos to choose the 2023 winner. Some of the Selection Committee judges include:

  • Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics Laureate and Professor of Mathematics at the University of California Ian Agol.
  • President of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Pascale Ehrenfreund, PhD.
  • Science literacy expert, former astronaut, and Principal of 100 Year Starship Mae Jemison.
  • NASA Astronaut and Administrator John Grunsfeld, PhD.
  • Retired NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly.
  • Professor of Chemistry at Scripps Research Institute Jeffrey W. Kelly.
  • Chairman of the Breakthrough Foundation and Executive Director of Breakthrough Starshot Pete Worden.

Meet Last Year’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge Champion

Last year’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge winner was Noor Haideri, from the U.S. Haideri’s video examines why looking at devices that emit blue light before going to bed can make it more difficult for us to fall asleep.

Haideri championed in 2022 among other impressive finalists, like Minatullah Ammar Abduljabbar, from Iraq, who produced a video about referred pain. Meanwhile, Sahand Adibnia, from the U.S., created a video about Gabriel’s Horn. And the Popular Vote winner, Ema Donev, from Croatia, delved into life and entropy in her video.

Watch the 2023 finalists’ videos and videos from previous years.

About Yuri Milner

As a Giving Pledge signatory, Yuri Milner has launched a host of philanthropic initiatives that support the global science arena.

While the Breakthrough Junior Challenge encourages young people to think deeply about high-level scientific concepts, the Breakthrough Prize celebrates leading researchers who are driving the future of life sciences, physics, and mathematics. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge winner attends the Breakthrough Prize ceremony, which many refer to as the “Oscars of Science.”

Awards aside, Yuri Milner is the co-founder of the Breakthrough Initiatives. These space science programs work to unveil evidence of extraterrestrial life and plot how we could communicate with alien life forms.

The Eureka Manifesto author is also passionate about supporting refugees in countries like Ukraine and Pakistan. Recognizing the huge need for technology to improve access to communication tools, transport, accommodation, and education, Yuri Milner co-launched Tech For Refugees in 2022.