VERONA, NJ - Chris Lakin is one step closer to the $400,000 prize for his submission into the Breakthrough Junior Challenge contest.  Now down to 15 finalists, Lakin will learn the outcome on Nov. 3 when the winner is announced live. 

The winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge will be awarded a $250,000 college scholarship. The science teacher who inspired the winning student will win a $50,000 prize.  The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.  The contest is designed to inspire fresh, creative explanations of fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics and mathematics.

Lakin's entry focuses on quantum photosynthesis, a topic that piqued his interested because of a TED talk he saw a few years ago.

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“I looked further into it and found that there were actually many topics of biology that seem to require quantum effects to explain properly: how our sense of smell works, how some birds navigate, how some genetic mutations may occur, and of course energy transfer in photosynthesis,” he said.  “With my video for example, quantum mechanics is usually only relevant on scales less than one one-hundredth of what photosynthesis seems to require. It should be infeasible, and that's why it excited me to make my entry.”

Lakin's physics teacher, Mr. Alexander Cali, encouraged him to submit an entry.

“To Chris there is always something more to know, and when there is, he is compelled to understand it,” said Cali.  “He is always researching and learning and acquiring more knowledge.  When he found out that he could compete in a competition that would reward him for what he did naturally, he was very eager to take up the challenge.”

“Chris took this challenge to heart,” continued Cali.  “Nearly all of the information that appeared in the video was researched, understood, organized and explained by Chris without me.  I feel that this is a testament not only to Chris's academic abilities, but also his motivation and dedication.  This was his challenge and he rose to meet it himself.”

All videos can be viewed at