The fifth annual Breakthrough Prize awards were doled out yesterday to researchers in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences and math. Hosted at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, the Breakthrough Prize awards celebrate the year’s biggest achievements in the sciences.
All told, 12 researchers won a combined $24 million in cash from tech billionaire sponsors. Five life sciences researchers and one mathematician reportedly took home $3 million each. An additional $1.4 million reportedly went to junior researchers and students. Winners are chosen by a committee of past Breakthrough Prize winners. Winners also participate in a lecture-and-discussion series.
Awards this year were given out to scientists who made major breakthroughs in the past year in understanding cell division, cell repair, the genetic causes behind rare neurological disorders, quantum field theory and gravity, high-dimensional geometry, and number theory, among other things.
Junior awards were given to two young, up-and-coming scientists — Antonella Masini, 18, from Peru, and Deanna See, 17, from Singapore — who submitted videos on the subjects of quantum entanglement and antibiotic resistance, respectively. Each received $400,000 in scholarships and other educational prizes.
The Breakthrough Prize awards began in 2012. The award was founded and sponsored by a collective of tech and finance industry billionaires including Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Sergey Brin of Alphabet Inc., Yuri Milner, and Jack Ma of Alibaba, among others.
Amazon, Alphabet, Alibaba and Facebook all increasingly rely on scientific and technological innovation to fuel their collective growth — think improving mobile payments technology for the eCommerce giants, Facebook’s Wi-Fi drones and Alphabet’s work with artificial intelligence to power its Google Assistant.
At this year’s Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony, the Wall Street Journal reported that actor Morgan Freeman was scheduled as the evening’s MC, singer and pianist Alicia Keys was scheduled to perform that night, and actor Jeremy Irons was listed on the program as an awards presenter.