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Group of 15 represent six countries and includes top scorer in online ‘popular vote’ contest

The Breakthrough Prize today announced its finalists in the third annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a group of 15 impressive students that includes the recent top scorer of the online ‘Popular Vote’ portion of the global competition.

The finalists are: Alexandra Erwin, 17, (United States); Beryl Zhou, 16, (United States); Hillary Diane Andales, 18, (Philippines); Ian Shen-Costello, 16, (United States); Ibrahim Kosgi, 16, (United States); Jeffrey Zhou, 18, (United States);Jenny Simon, 17, (Spain); Makena Biker Cosen, 18, (Argentina); Matthew Walak, 17, (United States); Melissa Wang, 17, (United States); Mia Lazar, 15, (United States);  Samay Godika, 15, (India); Shannon Hutchinson, 18, (United States);Yash Kadadi, 15, (United States); and Yoochan Shin, 16, (Republic of Korea). All videos can be viewed at


Fifteen-year-old Samay Godika, of India, was the top scorer in the ‘Popular Vote’ contest with more than 44,000 likes, shares and positive reactions on his post on the Breakthrough Facebook page. The ‘Popular Vote’ contest ran from Monday, October 23 to Thursday, November 2, on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, and invited the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission by “liking,” “sharing,” or issuing a “positive reaction.” Collectively, during the 11-day contest, the 29 semifinalist videos were viewed more than 1.1 million times on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page, expanding minds across the globe.


One of the 15 finalists will be named the winner of the 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge live on the Breakthrough Facebook page during the 2018 Breakthrough Prize ceremony Dec. 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.


This year, Regional Champions were also named for the top scoring video during the Popular Vote from each region. Three of these winners are also finalists: Samay Godika of India; Hillary Diane Andales of the Phillipines (Asia); and Jeffrey Zhou of the United States (North America). Other regional winners include Giancarlos Ortega, 16 of Panama (Central America); Jean-Paul Khairallah, 17, of Lebanon (Middle East/Africa); Jesse Wright, 17 of Australia (Australia);  Leonardo Mancilla Mendez, 15 of Bolivia, (South America) and Susan Chen, 17, of Scotland (Europe).


More than 11,000 students – from 178 countries – registered for the 2017 installment of the global competition for science and math students that kicked off on September 1, 2017, 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. The field was reduced to 29 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 finalists were reviewed by the Selection Committee, comprised of: Breakthrough Prize laureates; Salman Khan, CEO, Founder, Khan Academy; author and educator Lucy HawkingDr. 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 MaladiesA 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.


This is the third 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 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.



Press release from 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge