Breakthrough Prize Symposium to feature world’s top scientists

Perlmutter and Arkani-Hamed

Breakthrough Prize laureates Saul Perlmutter of UC Berkeley and Nima Arkani-Hamed of Princeton during a discussion at last year's symposium. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

This year’s Breakthrough Prize Symposium, sponsored annually by UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and Stanford University following the Breakthrough Prize gala and awards announcements, will be held Monday, Dec. 5, at UCSF’s Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco.

The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is open to the public, will feature 14 TED Talk-style presentations about the latest advances in life sciences, physics and mathematics. Advance registration is required through the symposium’s website.

Beate Heinemann

Physicist Beate Heinemann delivers a talk at the 2015 symposium. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

This year’s symposium will feature 2015, 2016 and 2017 Breakthrough Prize laureates giving 15-minute talks on topics ranging from Parkinson’s disease to string theory. Speakers will focus on their pragmatic visions of research goals achievable within the next decade.

Scheduled speakers include:

  • Shinya Yamanaka of UCSF, who won the 2013 prize in life sciences, talking about new frontiers in stem cell research;
  • John Hardy, 2016 winner in life sciences, on new approaches to treating neurodegenerative disorders;
  • Emmanuelle Charpentier, who received the 2015 prize in life sciences with UC Berkeley’s Jennifer Doudna, on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing;
  • Svante Pääbo, a UC Berkeley alum and recipient of the 2016 prize in life sciences, on Neanderthal genomics and human cognition; and
  • Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss, 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize recipients in fundamental physics, on gravitational waves and black holes.

The Breakthrough Prizes celebrate science and scientists and aim to generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. They were founded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin; 23andMe co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki; technology investor and science philanthropist Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia Milner; and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, UCSF-trained pediatrician and philanthropist Priscilla Chan.

This year’s gala, an invitation-only event at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, takes place Sunday, Dec. 4, and will be broadcast live in its entirety on the National Geographic channel at 7 p.m. PST. Eight $3 million prizes will be awarded in the life sciences, one in fundamental physics and one in mathematics.

The ceremony will be hosted by Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman and will feature a special performance by 15-time Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and producer Alicia Keys.

An edited one-hour version of the ceremony will also air on FOX on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 7:00-8:00 PM EST/PT and globally on National Geographic in 171 countries and 45 languages,

Breakthrough Prize Symposium