Announcing the 2022 Winner of Giving Pledge Signatory Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Since signing the Giving Pledge in 2012, Yuri Milner has co-founded and founded a host of philanthropic enterprises to advance global science. As part of this commitment, Yuri Milner launched the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2015. This competition encourages young people aged 13-18 to produce informative videos of up to 90 seconds that illuminate complex scientific topics.

Now in its eighth year, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has announced its 2022 winner.

2022 Breakthrough Junior Challenge Finalists

Once again, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has received outstanding video entries from around the world. The 2022 finalists include:

  • Abel Dagne, age 18, from the U.S., who created a video about noise cancellation. In his video, he explains how the frequency and amplitude of sound waves determine the number of waves per second and the height of the wave (or the volume). He uses a trampoline analogy to demonstrate how different sound waves interfere with each other. He also explains that by shifting two sound waves so that one’s peaks match the other’s troughs (the lowest and highest parts of a sound wave), it’s possible to cancel out noise altogether.
  • Minatullah Ammar Abduljabbar, age 17, from Iraq, who created a video about referred pain. In her video, she explains why we sometimes feel pain in one part of the body when another part of the body is really the source of the pain. She introduces the Convergence Projection Theory to explain why the brain can’t always decipher which part of the body is experiencing pain.
  • Elias Fariz, age 16, from the U.S., who created a video about the pancake theorem. In his video, he unpacks the Borsuk-Ulam theorem, explaining that we need to understand this before we can get to grips with the pancake theorem. Fariz uses an analogy of two friends who live on opposite sides of the world in different climates. He shows how, if these two friends travelled around the world, always at the opposite location of the other, at some point, they would each experience a climate of the same temperature. He then uses this theory to explain the pancake theorem.

Noor Haideri: Winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Noor Haideri, from Blue Valley High School in Kansas, has won the latest Breakthrough Junior Challenge for her video on how melanopsin and intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) affect the sleep-wake cycle.

In her video, Haideri delves into why spending time on electronic devices that emit blue light before bed can make it harder to sleep. She explains that blue light affects melanopsin, a protein in retinal ganglion cells (ipRCGs) that helps the body release melatonin — a hormone that helps us sleep. When we’re looking at devices that emit blue light, our brains release less of this hormone.

Haideri then explains how individuals who have vision impairments can have a consistent sleep-wake cycle despite not being able to see. She notes that although an individual’s rod and cone cells (in the retina) may not be able to register light, this doesn’t mean that light doesn’t reach the retina, where ipRGCs still register light and control the release of melatonin.

Prizes for Noor Haideri, Her School, and Her Teacher

Haideri has won three game-changing prizes: a $250,000 scholarship to a college of her choice, a $100,000 state-of-the-art science lab for Blue Valley High School, and $50,000 for Dianne Dunn, a science teacher who inspires her.

Yuri Milner has funded these prizes as part of his Giving Pledge. He signed the Giving Pledge to support scientific brilliance and pave the way for the next generation to continue important research.

“It’s honestly a dream come true [to win the Breakthrough Junior Challenge],” Haideri said.

Watch Blue Valley High School celebrate Haideri’s Breakthrough Prize Challenge win.


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