Raffles Institution student wins $356,000 scholarship funded by Mark Zuckerberg

Lee Min Kok
The Straits Times
5 DEC 2016

A video on antibiotic resistance has won Singapore student Deanna See a US$250,000 (S$356,000) scholarship from a foundation funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Deanna, 17, a student at Raffles Institution (RI), was one of the finalists of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science video competition that attracted more than 6,000 entries from 146 countries.

The annual challenge, which requires students to explain a challenging theory or concept in mathematics, life sciences or physics with an original video, crowned two winners this year - Deanna and 18-year-old Peruvian student Antonella Masini.

Deanna's five-minute clip - titled "Superbugs! And Our Race Against Resistance" - saw her demystify antibiotic resistance in an engaging manner, using props such as Lego figurines.

Antonella's video focused on quantum entanglement.

Both students gave speeches during the Breakthrough Prize gala ceremony, which was televised live, at San Francisco's Silicon Valley on Sunday (Dec 4, US time). 

Their reward: Up to US$400,000 in education prizes, consisting of a US$250,000 scholarship, a US$50,000 prize for a teacher who inspired them and a state-of-the-art science laboratory valued at US$100,000.

A report by GeekWire said Deanna had chosen to award the US$50,000 prize to her biology teacher Wong Seok Hui. But as Mrs Wong is a civil servant, she is unable to receive the prize and will direct it to RI's scholarship programme instead.

The lab prize will be donated to Raffles Girls' School, Deanna's alma mater.

The prizes are funded by Mr Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla Chan, and Russian physicist Yuri Milner and his wife Julia via the Breakthrough Prize Foundation.

Said Dr Chan of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, which is into its second year: "It encourages students to better understand the worlds of science and mathematics and to have some fun along the way.

"Antonella and Deanna both have bright futures in science and I am so excited to honour their work. They are also incredible storytellers, whose ability to capture these complex ideas in accessible and exciting ways is truly inspiring.

"I cannot wait to see how they will change the world."

Founded in 2012 by the Zuckerbergs, the Milners as well as Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his ex-wife Anne Wojcicki, the Breakthrough Prize Foundation hands out the annual Breakthrough Prizes.

The prizes recognise the world's top scientists, with each US$3 million prize (up to a maximum of eight every year) awarded in the fields of life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics.

The Straits Times

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