Media Advisory | Science luminaries to speak at Nov. 5 Breakthrough Symposium

ATTENTION: Reporters covering higher education, science and health

Breakthrough Prize logo

WHAT: The Breakthrough Prize Symposium, a day of talks by recently announced and past winners of the Breakthrough Prize in physics, the life sciences and mathematics. Some of the nation’s top scientists will discuss cutting-edge challenges in fields ranging from cancer and genome editing to new materials and time travel.

WHEN: Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Registration required for the general public.

WHERE: Pauley Ballroom, Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, University of California, Berkeley. Check-in is on the third floor. (See campus map and location of nearby public parking.)

Reporters who would like to reserve a seat should contact Kristen Bothwell at Rubenstein Communications, Inc.:

The presentations will be streamed live via YouTube (see program for URLs) and Facebook Live.

WHO: Past and 2018 winners of the Breakthrough Prize, including:

  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell, one of the discoverers of pulsars, who will talk about enigmatic cosmic radio bursts;
  • Jennifer Doudna, UC Berkeley inventor of CRISPR-Cas9, on the future of genome editing.

The 2019 Breakthrough Prize winners speaking are:

  • Frank Bennett, Adrian Krainer, Angelika Amon, Xiaowei Zhuang and Zhijian “James” Chen, recipients of four separate life sciences awards;
  • Charles Kane and Eugene Mele, recipients of the fundamental physics award;
  • Vincent Lafforgue, recipient of the mathematics award.

For more detail, see the complete program.

DETAILS: Since the Breakthrough Prize’s inception in 2012, an awards gala — this year’s is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 4 — has been followed by a day of talks by new and past honorees about challenging questions at the frontiers of physics, the life sciences and mathematics.

This year, UC Berkeley will host the day-long symposium, which features talks by the eight 2019 Breakthrough Prize winners; Burnell, recipient of the 2018 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics; and four past prize winners.

These talks will be followed, between 5:30 and 7 p.m., by three panel discussions focused on issues raised by the late physicist Stephen Hawking in his final book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions. Hawking, a major supporter of the Breakthrough Prizes, examined some of the urgent challenges and exciting opportunities facing humanity and the role of science in addressing them. The topics of these 30-minute discussions are:

  • Is there (intelligent) life in the universe?
  • What are the limits of science?
  • Is time travel possible?

The Breakthrough Prizes are sponsored by Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Ma Huateng, Yuri and Julia Milner and Anne Wojcicki. Selection committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates in each field choose the winners. Information on the Breakthrough Prizes is available at

See the Breakthrough Prize website for more detail about this year’s winners and the Nov. 4 gala.