Symposium Schedule

November 5, 2018 | Register

The Breakthrough Prize Symposium features presentations by world-class researchers working in the fields of physics, life sciences and mathematics.  For information on all of this year’s winners visit the Breakthrough Prize Foundation website.


Morning Session 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Pauley Ballroom, MLK Student Union, UC Berkeley

Registration, Coffee and Breakfast 9:30  
Welcome Remarks 10:15 Live stream
    Angelika Amon, 2019 Laureate
    Abnormal Chromosome Number: its Role in Cancer and Potential as a Therapeutic Target
    Charles Kane, 2019 Laureate
    Envisaging the Emergence of Quantum Topological Matter
    Jennifer Doudna, 2015 Laureate
    Recoding Life: The Future of Genome Editing
    Vincent Lafforgue, 2019 Laureate
    Some Open Problems in Algebraic Geometry and the Langlands Program
    Adrian R. Krainer, 2019 Laureate
    RNA Splicing as a Target for the Next Generation of Precision Medicines

Lunch 12:30 PM


Afternoon Session 1:30 - 5:00 PM

Pauley Ballroom, MLK Student Union, UC Berkeley

    Robert Langer, 2014 Laureate
    Biomaterials and How They Will Change our Lives
Live stream
    Xiaowei Zhuang2019 Laureate
    Imaging the Invisible in Living Organisms –– Current State of the Art and Future
    Gene Mele, 2019 Laureate
    The Winding Road from Topological Insulators
    James Chen, 2019 Laureate
    Inflammation 2030 - Modern Disease Caused by an Old Flame
    Ian Agol, 2016 Laureate
    Seeking a Computer-free Proof of the 4-Color Theorem
Live stream
    Frank Bennett, 2019 Laureate
    Genetic Medicines: Present and Future
    Jocelyn Bell, 2018 Laureate
    Radio Bursts!  What's Going on Amongst the Stars?
Closing Remarks - Pete Worden 5:00  



Panel Discussion 5:30 - 7:00 PM

Pauley Ballroom, MLK Student Union, UC Berkeley

The Symposium panel discussions are accessible conversations between laureates past and present, about broad philosophical subjects around science and technology.  

Stephen Hawking, who passed away this year, was a giant of physics, as well as a talismanic figure for the Breakthrough Prize. A laureate himself in 2013, he was a frequent collaborator on the Prize and the Foundation’s other projects. This fall sees the publication of his last book, Brief Answers to The Big Questions, in which he examines some of the urgent challenges and exciting opportunities facing humanity and the role of science in them.

The idea of big questions has also been integral to the Breakthrough philosophy, and this year the Symposium panel discussions will take his questions as an inspiration. The panel discussions will be based around chapters from the book, each of which focuses on a big question.

Panel discussion will be streaming at 5:30 on November 5, 2018.

5:30 - 6:00 PM 
Is time travel possible?

Time travel is a staple of science fiction, but how does mainstream science see it? Is it forbidden by the laws of physics? And if not, could it ever be a practical possibility? And do scientists even agree about what time is?


Panel includes:

Nima Arkani-Hamed, Theoretical Physics - 2012 Laureate
Daniel Harlow, Theoretical Physics - 2019 Laureate
Daniel Jafferis, Theoretical Physics - 2019 Laureate
Aron Wall, Theoretical Physics - 2019 Laureate
Moderator: Derek Muller, Veritasium

6:00 - 6:30 PM
What are the limits of science?
Science has shown us a universe more and more distant from our familiar world: at microscopic and cosmic scales, at the dawn of time and remote stages of evolutionary history. But is this process limitless? What are the furthest and smallest physical and biological objects we can see? Can we ever know what happened at the moment of the Big Bang? And how far back can we retrace the origin of life on Earth?


Panel includes:

Andrei Linde, Theoretical Physics, Cosomology - 2012 Laureate 
Gary Ruvkun, Molecular Biology, 
Genetics - 2015 Laureate
Xiaowei Zhuang, Biophysics - 2019 Laureate
Moderator: Lee Billings,Scientific American

6:30 - 7:00 PM
Is there life in the Universe?
Astronomers have been looking for life beyond Earth for decades, but have so far found nothing. But the recent discovery that almost all stars probably host planets may have changed the game. How likely are we to find primitive life? How hard is it to get from cells to brains? And why have we not seen evidence of civilizations?


Panel includes:

Jocelyn Bell, Astronomy - 2018 Laureate
John Hardy, Neuroscience - 2017 Laureate
Kim Nasmyth, Molecular Biology - 2018 Laureate
Moderator: Valerie Jamieson, New Scientist