Burlingame High School senior Jeffery Chen scored a huge victory on Sunday, November 3, 2019. The 17-year-old Burlingame resident won the top prize in a global science competition called the Breakthrough Junior Challenge that invited youths between the ages of 13 and 18 to create a 3-minute video to explain a complex topic from the world of physics, math or the life sciences.
Jeffery’s entry was chosen from more than 11,000 entries from around the world. He will receive a $250,000 college scholarship, while his teacher, Heather Johnson, will get $50,000, and Burlingame High will receive $100,000 for a new science lab.
Jeffery’s winning video explains how astronomers are using neutrinos, which are almost massless, subatomic particles that travel through space at nearly the speed of light, to witness cosmic events outside the solar system and across the universe. You can view his video here.
Jeffery has worked closely with the Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame (CEC) and an environmental science club he started at BHS to offer an annual Student Film Fest that awards cash prizes to students submitting short videos on environmental subjects. The third annual Film Fest will be held on March 24, 2020, at Burlingame High. He anchors a “Today in Science” segment for his school’s television station and won first place in San Francisco’s Clear the Air Film Fest in 2017 for a video about the controversy over plastic water bottles.
Mike McCord, chair of CEC, said, “Jeffery’s talent has been apparent to us since we saw a climate change video he produced in eighth grade. We are especially proud of him because he has been our best collaborator. We gave him the seed of an idea to do an environmental video contest, and he developed it into a Student Film Festival that drew 60 entries in two years from elementary, middle and high school students, and with his newly rejuvenated Environmental Club he staged two great awards ceremonies. We are confident he will move on to have an impact on a much larger stage.”
You can see a video of Jeffery accepting his prize at the award ceremony here. The portion about him runs from 1:30:40 to 1:35:30.