For a 16-year-old who teaches at a university and who'll probably have a PhD by the time he's 21, you might think there's little that Tristan Pang has yet to prove to himself, let alone anyone else.

But the hard-studying Auckland teen has made it his next test to beat a handful of other bright young minds from around the world and take out a coveted science prize.

Winning the Breakthrough Junior Challenge would cap off an extraordinary few years for Pang, widely touted as New Zealand's pre-eminent prodigy.

He was nine when he scored 91 per cent in the Cambridge A-Level exam, 11 when he gave a TEDx Talk to 500 people, and 13 when he became the youngest undergraduate to study math at the University of Auckland.

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When his old schoolmates were chatting about 1D - the boy band One Direction - he was pondering 11D, the eleven dimensions in string theory.

He's now tutoring two maths classes, working on a 50-year-old unsolved math problem, sitting in a topology class, and serving as the university's maths club president.

In just a month's time, Pang expects to finish a paper and obtain a Bachelor of Science with a near-perfect GPA.

Still, he was chuffed to be among just 29 young people who had beaten out more than 12,000 others to make it through to the semi-finals of the challenge.

A subsidiary of The Breakthrough Prize, created to honour fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics, and whose laureates include Professor Stephen Hawking, the junior challenge aimed to inspire the next generation of scientists.

Entrants aged between 13 and 18 were invited to make original videos that illustrated a concept or theory, with judges evaluating their ability to communicate complex scientific ideas in engaging, illuminating and imaginative ways.

"The biggest challenge is to explain such a complex and high-level concept and research in layman's terms in just three minutes."

For Pang, who has been making videos since he was 12 - "and a maths lover since I was a baby" - entering was an easy decision, but choosing the topic was hard.

At just the age of 16, Tristan Pang soon expects to complete a science degree at the University of Auckland, where he also tutors two math classes. Photo / Supplied
At just the age of 16, Tristan Pang soon expects to complete a science degree at the University of Auckland, where he also tutors two math classes. Photo / Supplied

He picked the Theory of Emergence, which linked both fundamental and applied physics, and had already been colourfully illustrated by research on pedestrian behaviour by the university's Professor Shaun Hendy.

"A key point in this research is that people are trying to anticipate what others will do, and it is this that creates the non-linearity that leads to emergence," Pang explained.

Auckland prodigy Tristan Pang has made it his next test to beat a handful of other bright young minds from around the world and take out a coveted science prize. Photo / Supplied
Auckland prodigy Tristan Pang has made it his next test to beat a handful of other bright young minds from around the world and take out a coveted science prize. Photo / Supplied

"A norm emerges, so that pedestrians can correctly anticipate how other pedestrians will move."

Tristan, 16, New Zealand, Australia/Oceania Region: 2018 Breakthrough Junior Challenge

Tristan, 16, New Zealand, Australia/Oceania Region: This video has made the Popular Vote of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge! If you think it should go straight to the final round – like it, share it, or give it another positive reaction (Love, Haha, Wow) before the September 20th deadline. The Popular Vote will also result in 7 Regional Champions being named. --- Make sure to check out all the videos by clicking on the 2018 Breakthrough Junior Challenge Popular Vote playlist on our video page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/BreakthroughPrize/videos/ and learn more at https://breakthroughjuniorchallenge.org/popular-vote.

Posted by Breakthrough on Thursday, 6 September 2018

With the contest now in the popular vote stage, people could support Pang's bid by both liking and sharing the original post of his video on Facebook.

He now had just one Australian rival to take out the regional champion category, with the overall highest vote winner proceeding to the final round.

The winner of the contest, to be announced at a Silicon Valley ceremony in November, would receive a US$250,000 college scholarship, while the teacher that inspired them would win $50,000, and their school would get a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.

Funnily enough, Pang wouldn't benefit from any of the prize money himself.

"The organiser would have never thought of a student in this age bracket could have already finished a bachelor's degree," he said.

"They didn't even think a student could have started university."

If he won, he hoped to be able to transfer the scholarship to a promising student from a low-decile high school, and put the $100,000 toward a lab for the university's Science Scholars Programme.

"Although I would have already left this programme by then, it would still great to see my fellow science scholars who can put their innovative minds together to create something great in that lab."

Pang said he didn't normally enter competitions - "I prefer to challenge myself rather than confronting others" - but he figured that winning it would make his professors proud.

They included Hendy, and Professor Richard Easther, who inspired him to study physics.

"They are great science communicators and they will be pleased to see me walking this path to share what I have discovered, and contributing to a better world from a scientific perspective, like they are doing."

• To like and share Pang's video, visit this link: https://www.facebook.com/BreakthroughPrize/videos/299104307573473/