BERKLEY, CA (TIP): Surjeet Rajendran,assistant professor of physics at University of California, Berkeley, was named one of six winners of the 2017 New Horizons in Physics Prize during a gala announcing the annual winners of the Breakthrough Prize.Hosted by Morgan Freeman, the award ceremony was held December 4 in Silicon Valley and was attended by founders Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. A combined total of$25 million was awarded at the gala ceremony, marking the organization’s fifth anniversary recognizing top achievements in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Each of the Breakthrough Prizes is worth $3 million, the largest individual monetary prize in science.

This year, a total of seven of these prizes were awarded to nine individuals, along with a $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, which was split between three founders and more than a thousand members of the LIGO team. In addition, three $100,000 New Horizons in Physics Prizes were awarded to six early-career physicists, and a further three $100,000 New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes were awarded to four young mathematicians. And this year there were two winners of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, each receiving up to$400,000 in educational prizes for them, their teacher and their school.

“There has never been a more important time to support science,” said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. “The 2017 Breakthrough Prize laureates represent the leaders in scientific research in physics, math and life sciences. Their breakthroughs will unlock new possibilities and help make the world a better place for everyone.”

Rajendran, 33, the Henry Shenker assistant professor of physics, works in the area of theoretical particle physics and searches for new theories to explain dark matter and other cosmological mysteries. He joined the UC Berkeley Physics Department in July 2014. The New Horizons prizes are awarded to promising early-career researchers who have already produced important work in either fundamental physics or mathematics.