They say the true test of having mastered a certain kind of subject matter lies in how well you can explain it using the simplest terms. If that’s so, then Leyte-based Hillary Andales must have quite a firm grip on Einstein’s theory of relativity….at the ripe, old age of 18.
A few months ago, Andales was awarded a USD250,000 post-secondary scholarship during the Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Her entry was a video entitled “Relativity and the Equivalence of Reference Frames,” and its use of a well-written script and simple yet illuminating animation sequences ended up being very well-received by the judging panel.
Breakthrough is a nonprofit organization founded by some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, such as Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, Mark Zuckerberg, and Priscilla Chan. It was established to honor and encourage individuals that make important advancements in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences, and mathematics. Its yearly Junior Challenge, for instance, constantly seeks out 13-18 year-olds who can make use of videos to explain concepts from the aforementioned categories.
As for its most recent winner, here are some very interesting facts about the Philippine Science High School Student:
1. It took quite a lot of work to produce her video.
Approximately 20 drafts and about 200 hours of shooting footage and doing post-production animation went into Andales’ video, which is just under 3 minutes. She credits her father for checking the scripts she worked on throughout the whole process.
2. Andales is the first Filipina to win the competition.
She received the award in California on December 3. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is currently on its third year.
3. The love for science runs in her family.
Her father, Roy Andales, is a chemist who also loves physics. Her mother is an accountant by profession, but is also very passionate about science. Both parents constantly encourage their daughter and her 13 year-old brother (also a student of the Philippine Science High School’s Eastern Visayas Campus) to read books and to be updated on the latest scientific breakthroughs.
4. Part of her winnings includes a new science laboratory valued at USD100,000 for her school.
Designed in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the addition to her school’s new molecular biology laboratory (which she also won last year in a different competition) is undoubtedly a welcome development; The Philippine Science High School’s Eastern Visayas Campus still sustains severe damages from 2013’s superstorm, Haiyan.
On a brighter note, the science teacher who inspired Andales also received USD50,000 (about PHP2.5 million) as prize money. Nifty.
And speaking of inspiration….
5. Dr. Reinabelle Reyes is one of the scientists she looks up to.
The Chicago-based Filipina astrophysicist and data scientist made great strides in the theory of relativity at a young age. At just 26, she led a research team that astounded scientists all over the world by proving Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity on a cosmic scale.
6. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge isn’t the first science competition she’s won.
Andales is also a consistent champion in the Metrobank MTAP DepEd Math Challenge Division Finals, a perennial Science delegate for the Japan-Asia Youth Exchange Program, and a constant leader of the Regional Council of the Philippine Society of Youth Science Clubs.
One can only imagine what her CV would look like in a few years. In the meantime, you can watch Hillary Andales’ award-winning relativity video here.