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

The Breakthrough Prize today announced Jeffery Chen, 17, of Burlingame, California, as the winner of the fifth annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science video competition designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics.

Jeffery, his teacher, and his school will share prizes worth a combined $400,000. Currently a senior at Burlingame High School, Jeffery will receive a $250,000 college scholarship. His science teacher, Heather Johnson, who sparked Jeffery’s interest in science, mentored him, and helped him launch an environmental science club, will win a $50,000 prize. Additionally, his school will receive a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.

Mesmerized by astronomy after visiting a planetarium in elementary school, Jeffery’s submission to the Breakthrough Junior Challenge explained the neutrino particle and its implications for astronomy – enabling astronomers to look at high energy cosmic events, gaze at the core of stars, and even look at the universe moments after it began.

Jeffery was recognized alongside some of the world’s top scientists and mathematicians as they were awarded the world’s largest annual science prize, the Breakthrough Prize. The ceremony was broadcast live on National Geographic in the United States.

“I was very impressed with Jeffery Chen’s grasp of the complex subject of neutrino astronomy and also with the way in which he was able to describe it for a general audience,” said Art McDonald, Breakthrough and Nobel Prize laureate for the discovery of neutrino oscillations. “Well done, Jeffery!”

This is the fifth consecutive year in which students ages 13-18 were invited to create original videos (up to three minutes in length) that illustrated a concept or theory in physics, the life sciences, and mathematics. The submissions were evaluated with respect to the students’ abilities 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.