On December 3, researchers discarded their work clothes for party wear as they attended the annual presentation of the Breakthrough Prizes, also known as the “Oscars of Science.” The Breakthrough Foundation announced the winners of the most lucrative award in science in a gala ceremony attended by academics and Hollywood celebrities at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. According to the founders, the award ceremony is “designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists.” The winners are chosen by a selection committee that comprises prior Breakthrough Prize laureates.
This year, a total of seven $3 million prizes were awarded to physicists, mathematicians, and life sciences researchers. The winners of the 2018 Breakthrough Prizes are as follows:
2018 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences
- Joanne Chory (Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Howard Hughes Medical Institute) for “discovering the molecular mechanisms by which plants extract information from light and shade to modify their programs of shoot and leaf growth in the photosynthetic harvest of light”
- Don W. Cleveland (Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at University of California, San Diego) for “elucidating the molecular pathogenesis of a type of inherited ALS, including the role of glia in neurodegeneration, and for establishing antisense oligonucleotide therapy in animal models of ALS and Huntington disease”
- Kazutoshi Mori (Kyoto University) for “elucidating the unfolded protein response, a cellular quality-control system that detects disease-causing unfolded proteins and directs cells to take corrective measures”
- Kim Nasmyth (University of Oxford) for “elucidating the sophisticated mechanism that mediates the perilous separation of duplicated chromosomes during cell division and thereby prevents genetic diseases such as cancer”
- Peter Walter (University of California, San Francisco) for “elucidating the unfolded protein response, a cellular quality-control system that detects disease-causing unfolded proteins and directs cells to take corrective measures”
2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
The prize will be shared among the 27-member WMAP experimental team for “detailed maps of the early universe that greatly improved our knowledge of the evolution of the cosmos and the fluctuations that seeded the formation of galaxies.” The team has the following five team leaders:
- Charles L. Bennett (Johns Hopkins University)
- Gary Hinshaw (University of British Columbia)
- Norman Jarosik (Princeton University)
- Lyman Page Jr. (Princeton University)
- David N. Spergel (Princeton University)
2018 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics
The prize will be shared for “transformational contributions to birational algebraic geometry, especially to the minimal model program in all dimensions” by:
- Christopher Hacon (University of Utah)
- James McKernan (University of California, San Diego)
Additionally, the Breakthrough Foundation awarded the New Horizon Prizes worth $10,000 each to recognize seven early career researchers who excel in the fields of mathematics and physics. For mathematics, the award was presented to Aaron Naber (Northwestern University), Maryna Viazovska (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Zhiwei Yun (Yale University), and Wei Zhang (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University). The researchers awarded for their promising work in physics are Christopher Hirata (Ohio State University), Andrea Young (University of California, Santa Barbara), Douglas Stanford (Institute for Advanced Study and Stanford University).
A prize was also handed out to the winner of the Junior Breakthrough Challenge for effectively communicating a complex scientific concept or theory. Hillary Diane Andales from Philippines was awarded $400,000 in educational prizes in addition to a scholarship, prize for her science teacher who inspired her, and a science lab for Hillary’s school.
Congratulations to all the winners!