Williams grad a finalist in global science competition

By Alexandria Gaines

   You can hear the excitement in Sam Cryan’s voice as he talks about being one of 29 semifinalists in a global science competition.
“I was having lunch with one of my friends when I started talking about math, as happens when I start talking with my friends, and they interrupted me telling me about this Breakthrough Challenge and I had never heard of it before,” Cryan said.
Cryan, a Williams High School graduate, talks about how grateful he is to be a part of this competition as he rushes between his classes on his first day at Princeton University.
“It’s just like a dream,” he said.
   The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global science competition where students from 190 different countries entered to win a total of $400,000 in prizes — $250,000 of the prize goes to college scholarships — $50,000 goes to the teacher who inspired the student to enter and $100,000 goes to a state-of-the-art science lab for winner’s school.
Cryan made a video about Markov chains, which he describes as a simple idea used almost everywhere and we don’t realize it.
“They appear in Google page rank, they appear in like sports rank, they’ll appear when you’re trying to figure out marketing,” Cryan said.
When the competition began, more than 12,000 students registered, sending in three-minute videos breaking down a big scientific idea in fundamental physics, life sciences or mathematics. Now the competition has 29 semifinalists competing for the “popular vote.”
The contest invites the public to vote for their favorite semifinalist submission through the Breakthrough Facebook page by liking, sharing or giving a positive reaction to their favorite video. The voting ends on Sept. 20 and the 15 semifinalists will move on to the finals.
When he started over the summer, his purpose was to make the video just for fun; he never imagined he would make it this far. When he got the email saying he was a semifinalist, he was home alone watching TV.
“I had almost forgotten about this competition when an email comes back saying you’re moving on. It was incredible,” he said.
Cryan enjoys all subjects, but his passion is in science. He remembers when he had lab days at Williams and says the state-of-the-art science lab would help tremendously.
“To have a brand new lab with everything clean, I feel the students would finally be able to enjoy that side of science more. I want to see others be able to get inspired by science like I did through that lab.”
As a freshman at Princeton, he is adjusting to college life and hopes to explore all the school has to offer. As of now, Cryan hopes to achieve his Ph.D. and become a professor to spread his love of learning and science.

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