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Breakthrough Season 2

Documentary 8 Episodes

“Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science” is a short documentary anthology from Science Friday and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Tangled Bank Studios that follows women working at the forefront of their fields. Each episode blends deeply personal stories with innovative scientific research of women across STEM fields and takes viewers from volcanoes in Costa Rica to distant galaxies and beyond. By showing that challenges such as deeply-rooted cultural or institutional norms, grueling working conditions, or personal sacrifice are not insurmountable obstacles to becoming a scientist or engineer, “Breakthrough” hopes to inspire a future generation of women to lead careers in STEM fields.

Learn more about the Breakthrough film series and Science Friday at



Pre-Screening Producers Conversation

The directors and producers of Breakthrough Season 2 discuss and introduce the film series.


The Volcano Trekker - Kayla Iacovino

Kayla Iacovino—part science fiction sleuth, part mountaineer—examines millenia-old cooled rocks and soils from volcanic eruptions to better understand the forces that created them.


The Avian Authority - Jingmai O’Connor

When paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor looks at the abdomen of a small, ancient avian fossil, she gets a thrill when she spots a jumble of nodules, no bigger than a scattering of goosebumps, protruding from the creature’s bones.


The Trauma Tracer - Bianca Jones Marlin

As a neurobiologist, Bianca Jones Marlin researches the molecular mechanisms of stresses in parents that can affect the brain structure and sensory experiences of their offspring—AKA, how trauma can be passed down from generation to generation.


The Galaxy Hunter - Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil

Viewing an already rare galaxy through her telescope, Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil looked closer to find it had not one, but two rings—a completely new kind of galaxy!


The Lake Sentinel - Africa Flores Anderson

To help underserved Guatemalan communities like the one she grew up in, Africa Flores-Anderson studies how to collect and interpret satellite data across huge landscapes and waterways.


The Slime Minder - Audrey Dussutour

For biologist Audrey Dussutour, researching primitive slimes has led to surprising discoveries about the evolution of learning and collective behavior that she’s been pondering her whole life.

1h 2m

Post-Screening Researchers Conversation

Watch four of the featured researchers speak candidly about their experience as women in STEM.

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