Meet The Winner Of The 2017 Breakthrough Junior Challenge (VIDEO)

Twelfth-grader Hillary Diane Andales talks about what inspired her to make her prize-winning video on the theory of relativity and the equivalence of reference frames.

AsianScientist (Dec. 11, 2017) – Like any scientist worth her salt, twelfth-grader Hillary Diane Andales from Tacloban City, Philippines, is unfazed by failure. Although her popular video about Feynman’s path integrals did not win the Breakthrough Junior Challenge last year, her new three-minute explainer of the theory of relativity and the equivalence of reference frames was selected as this year’s winning entry.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a worldwide science video competition where students between 13 and 18 years old explain the fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics and mathematics. For her latest efforts, Andales has won a scholarship worth up to US$250,000, a new science laboratory valued at US$100,000 for her school, designed by and in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and another US$50,000 for the science teacher who inspired her.

These new prizes add to the molecular biology laboratory she won last year for her school, the Philippine Science High School in Eastern Visayas, which was severely damaged by the 2013 superstorm Haiyan.

  1. Who or what motivated you to study science?
  2. My family has always been interested in science. My father, Roy Andales, is a chemist who is really fond of physics while my mother, Imelda, is an accountant who also likes science. They are the ones who encouraged me to read books and keep abreast with the latest science news. I also have a younger brother, a 13-year-old student at the Philippine Science High School as well. The love for science runs in the family.

  3. Have you always been interested with physics?
  4. When I was younger, I liked astronomy a lot. I wanted to become an astronaut. My dad introduced me to physics when I was about 10. He told me about quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity. But it was only last year that I started to study it seriously.

  5. Why did you choose the topic of the theory of relativity?
  6. Based on what I learnt from the previous competition, I realized that the topic should be big and complex but still something that can be conveyed to lay people easily. Right after dealing with the results of the previous competition, I started looking—albeit passively—for new topics. Last summer, I started to write the script. After about 20 drafts and some 200 hours of animation and shooting, I came up with a new video. My father helped me a lot through the whole process; he was the one checking scripts.

  7. What do you hope to study in the future?
  8. I want to pursue a research career in physics. Right now, I’m eyeing fundamental or particle physics.

  9. Who are the scientists you look up to?
  10. Filipino astrophysicist and data scientist Dr. Reinabelle Reyes inspires me a lot. Her story amazes me. I also love that she is into science communication too. I also look up to Richard Feynman, like any other physicist does. I get really, really excited whenever I hear him speak and when I read his works.

    During our internship in 2015, I had the honor of being mentored by another physicist at the University of the Philippines National Institute of Physics, Dr. Francis Paraan. We were programming different things in his laboratory, the Structure and Dynamics Group.

  11. What is do you think young people like yourself can contribute to science?
  12. I believe that youth like me have huge potential and responsibility towards future generations. We need to take care of the world we’re living in as we will soon inherit this world. We have the responsibility to make this world a better place to live in and science can help us do that. A generation that appreciates science can take care of the world better.

    For example, I find it fascinating that there’s still even a debate about climate change when it’s a scientific consensus that climate change is real. What we should be doing now is finding ways and actually try to do everything to minimize its impacts. The youth have that social responsibility.

    With science, we will learn how to start thinking critically. If a society thinks critically, then it will soon enjoy the benefits of an intellectual population. There’s a huge misconception that science is just about numbers and equations but it’s all about the world we’re living in and our appreciation of it.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Hillary Diane Andales/Breakthrough Prize.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Shai Panela is an award-winning freelance science journalist based in the Philippines. She was part of the Asian Science Journalism fellowship program of the World Federation of Science Journalists in 2013 and covers stories in science, health, technology and the environment.

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