About the Symposium

The Breakthrough Prizes are the world’s largest science awards, celebrated annually at a televised ceremony in Silicon Valley. The Prizes aim to celebrate science and scientists, promote a culture that venerates knowledge, and generate excitement about the pursuit of S.T.E.M. careers.

To these ends, the celebrations include a full-day Symposium in the three recognized fields of fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics. Each year’s new laureates give short, informal talks about exciting potential developments in their field. In the evening, Breakthrough Prize co-founder Yuri Milner hosts panel discussions featuring laureates past and present, discussing broad scientific and philosophical themes.

Each year’s Symposium is sponsored by Stanford University, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, with the physical venue alternating between them each year.

This year’s Symposium takes place at Stanford University. It can be viewed live on the Breakthrough Prize Facebook page.

Fundamental Physics
The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizes those individuals who have made profound contributions to human knowledge of the physical world, from particle physicists to cosmologists, and including both theoretical and experimental physicists.
Life Sciences
The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences honors transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life. Each year five prizes are given, at least one of which rewards outstanding research in the field of neurodegenerative disease.
The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics celebrates significant discoveries across the many branches of math.

Event Details

The Breakthrough Prize Symposium will take place on Monday, December 4, 2017 at Stanford University, and has three parts: the daytime session of short talks, the evening session of panel discussions, and the New Horizons Dinner.

Short Talks

The daytime sessions give the general public a chance to see some of the world’s great physicists, life scientists and mathematicians in action. The talks are informal and non-technical, and focus on an area rarely covered in more academic talks: near-term milestones - potential advances in the field that could take place within the next decade or so.

The talks, featuring 2018 Breakthrough Prize and New Horizons laureates, will take place at:

Arrillaga Alumni Center
McCaw Hall
Stanford University

December 4, 2017
9:00 AM – 4:15 PM

The talks are open to the general public.

Last year’s Symposium talks included:

2016 Special Breakthrough Prize winner and 2017 Nobel Prize winner Kip Thorne on near-term possibilities for gravitational wave astronomy

2016 Special Breakthrough Prize winner and 2017 Nobel Prize winner Rainer Weiss on LIGO

2015 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences winner Emmanuelle Charpentier, co-discoverer of CRISPR-Cas9, on the technology’s potential in the next ten years

Inter-disciplinary Panel Discussions

One of the most exciting elements of the Breakthrough Prize weekend is the opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas between life scientists, physicists and mathematicians. The evening session showcases this feature, with a series of inter-disciplinary panel discussions for an audience. Breakthrough Prize winners past and present from different fields join Yuri Milner, one of the founding sponsors of the Prizes, to discuss broad scientific and philosophical questions.

The panel discussions will take place at:

Knight Management Center
Cemex Auditorium
Stanford University

December 4, 2017
5:00 PM – 6:30 PM

Panel discussions from recent years have included:

2017: Ed Boyden, Andrew Strominger, Kumrun Vafa: Theory of Everything
Steven Elledge, Roel Nusse, Ashoke Sen: How Long Can We Live?
Nima Arkani-Hamed, Harry Noller, Huda Zoghbi: The Evolution of Intelligence

2016: Jennifer Doudna, Svante Pääbo, Gary Ruvkun, Robert Weinberg: Why Are We Here?
Nima Arkani-Hamed, Edward Boyden, Andrei Linde, Richard Taylor, Saul Perlmutter: Why is the Universe Comprehensible?
Alim-Louis Benabid, Karl Deisseroth, John Hardy: How does the Human Brain Work?

New Horizons Dinner

The New Horizons Prizes honor early-career physicists and mathematicians who have already made significant contributions to knowledge. At this dinner, an invited audience will be introduced to the 2018 New Horizons winners, who will receive their awards and each make brief remarks.