2015 Breakthrough Prizes Winners Announced

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BreakthroughPrizeCeremony650The winners of the 2015 Breakthrough Prizes in fundamental physics and life sciences, as well as mathematics, were presented with their awards at a gala earlier this week hosted by Seth MacFarlane, who was joined by Breakthrough Prize co-founders Sergey Brin (Google co-founder), Anne Wojcicki (Brin’s wife and founder of 23andMe), Jack Ma (Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman), Cathy Zhang (Ma’s wife), technology investor Yuri Milner, Julia Milner (Milner’s wife), Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan (Zuckerberg’s wife), with presenters including Kate Beckinsale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Diaz, Jon Hamm and Eddie Redmayne.

Each winner will receive a $ 3 million prize, and the ceremony will air in the U.S. on Discovery Channel and Science Channel Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. ET/PT, and globally on BBC World News the following weekend.

Zuckerberg said in a press release announcing the winners:

The world faces many fundamental challenges today, and there are many amazing scientists, researchers and engineers helping us solve them. This year’s Breakthrough Prize winners have made discoveries that will help cure disease and move the world forward. They deserve to be recognized as heroes.

Details on the winners follow:

The 2015 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences honors transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life, with one prize dedicated to work that contributes to the understanding of Parkinson’s disease.

  • Alim Louis Benabid, Joseph Fourier University, for the discovery and pioneering work on the development of high-frequency deep brain stimulation (DBS), which has revolutionized the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
  • C. David Allis, The Rockefeller University, for the discovery of covalent modifications of histone proteins and their critical roles in the regulation of gene expression and chromatin organization, advancing the understanding of diseases ranging from birth defects to cancer.
  • Victor Ambros, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Gary Ruvkun, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, for the discovery of a new world of genetic regulation by microRNAs, a class of tiny RNA molecules that inhibit translation or destabilize complementary mRNA targets. Each received a $ 3 million award.
  • Jennifer Doudna, University of California Berkeley, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, Helmholtz Center for Infection Research and Umeå University, for harnessing an ancient mechanism of bacterial immunity into a powerful and general technology for editing genomes, with wide-ranging implications across biology and medicine. Each received a $ 3 million award.

The 2015 Breakthrough Prizes in Mathematics

The inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics honors five of the world’s best mathematicians who have contributed to major advances in the field.

  • Simon Donaldson, Stony Brook University and Imperial College London, for the new revolutionary invariants of four-dimensional manifolds and for the study of the relation between stability in algebraic geometry and in global differential geometry, both for bundles and for Fano varieties.
  • Maxim Kontsevich, Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, for work making a deep impact in a vast variety of mathematical disciplines, including algebraic geometry, deformation theory, symplectic topology, homological algebra and dynamical systems.
  • Jacob Lurie, Harvard University, for his work on the foundations of higher category theory and derived algebraic geometry; for the classification of fully extended topological quantum field theories; and for providing a moduli-theoretic interpretation of elliptic cohomology.
  • Terence Tao, University of California Los Angeles, for numerous breakthrough contributions to harmonic analysis, combinatorics, partial differential equations and analytic number theory.
  • Richard Taylor, Institute for Advanced Study, for numerous breakthrough results in the theory of automorphic forms, including the Taniyama-Weil conjecture, the local Langlands conjecture for general linear groups and the Sato-Tate conjecture.

The 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizes major insights into the deepest questions of the Universe.

Saul Perlmutter, University of California Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and members of the Supernova Cosmology Project; Brian P. Schmidt, Australian National University, Adam Riess, Johns Hopkins University and the Space Telescope Science Institute, and members of the High-Z Supernova Team.

Citation: For the most unexpected discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed.

Supernova Cosmology Project Team Breakthrough Prize winners: Greg Aldering, Brian J. Boyle, Patricia G. Castro, Warrick J. Couch, Susana Deustua, Richard S. Ellis, Sebastien Fabbro, Alexei V. Filippenko, Andrew S. Fruchter, Ariel Goobar, Donald E. Groom, Isobel M. Hook, Mike Irwin, Alex G. Kim, Matthew Y. Kim, Robert A. Knop, Julia C. Lee, Chris Lidman, Thomas Matheson, Richard G. McMahon, Richard Muller, Heidi J.M. Newberg, Peter Nugent, Nelson J. Nunes, Reynald Pain, Nino Panagia, Carl R. Pennypacker, Robert Quimby, Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, Bradley E. Schaefer and Nicholas Walton.

High-Z Supernova Search Team Breakthrough Prize winners: Peter Challis, Alejandro Clocchiatti, Alan Diercks, Alexei V. Filippenko, Peter M. Garnavich, Ron L. Gilliland, Craig J. Hogan, Saurabh Jha, Robert P. Kirshner, Bruno Leibundgut, Mark M. Phillips, David Reiss, R. Chris Smith, Jason Spyromilio, Christopher Stubbs, Nicholas B. Suntzeff and John Tonry.

The 2015 New Horizons in Physics Prizes

  • Sean Hartnoll, Stanford University, for applying holographic methods to obtain remarkable new insights into strongly interacting quantum matter.
  • Philip C. Schuster and Natalia Toro, Perimeter Institute, for pioneering the “simplified models” framework for new physics searches at the Large Hadron Collider, as well as spearheading new experimental searches for dark sectors using high-intensity electron beams.
  • Horacio Casini and Marina Huerta, CONICET and Instituto Balseiro, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Shinsei Ryu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Tadashi Takayanagi, Kyoto University, for fundamental ideas about entropy in quantum field theory and quantum gravity.

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