Student Gives His Wits a Workout on ‘Jeopardy’
UT Dallas Neuroscience Junior Battles Other Collegians in Show Aired Friday
Feb. 3, 2010
“People for $500.”
Answer: A UT Dallas junior and longtime fan of Jeopardy who realized his quiz show dream last month.
“Who is … Prashant Raghavendran?”
Congratulations, you won the Daily Double! Not really, but you did just learn a fun fact about UT Dallas’ newest TV celebrity.
Raghavendran, a junior neuroscience major in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, was chosen from among more than 7,000 hopeful contestants to compete in Jeopardy’s annual College Championship. He was in Los Angeles Jan. 3-7 to tape the show.
“This was certainly one of the most exciting experiences ever,” Raghavendran said. “I was very nervous, but seeing that set was exhilarating.”
Raghavendran said he decided to try out for Jeopardy because he’s watched the show since he was 8 or 9 years old.
“I’ve had a love for knowledge since I was an infant,” he said. “My parents would teach me countries on a world atlas when I was 3. The format of Jeopardy intrigued me.”
Just to get on the show was quite an accomplishment. He first scored high on an online quiz in September and also did well during a trial run in Chicago in October. He learned in December that he was one of 15, out of 7,000 hopefuls, to earn a place on the show.
Raghavendran isn’t new to competition. He has participated in several previous academic events, such as Geography Bee and Quiz Bowl. Those contests also involve a great deal of pressure, so he was confident that he could hold up well on Jeopardy.
“I was most nervous about the audience,” he said. “I feared that it would be a larger audience than it was. Once I saw it was relatively small, it was easier to get over.”
Raghavendran said the Jeopardy staff members were friendly and helpful. And his fellow contestants were as smart and excited as he was.
“When we were waiting in the Green Room backstage, the 15 of us were forced to watch movies with the volume up all the way, so we would not hear what was going on outside,” he said. “Incessant chatter was the rule of that room.”
Raghavendran also enjoyed meeting famed host Alex Trebek.
“Alex was great,” he said. “Alex loved to interact with the audience, answering questions during commercial breaks. He made us feel relaxed. Though I didn't have much time to talk to him off-camera, I relished the conversations we had during breaks and during the game.”
As far as his future TV plans, Raghavendran said he would love to be on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? because the questions are fun and challenging. But he’s content just making it to Jeopardy.
Asked why quiz shows continue to be so popular with people of all ages, Raghavendran said he thinks people enjoy learning and demonstrating their knowledge.
“When you put that in the context of games, it becomes fun to learn,” he said. “There’s really a big culture behind a show like Jeopardy. You watch to see people like Ken Jennings (the all-time champion) grow on you over two months of play. It's always uplifting to see how smart people are. In a small way, it gives you confidence in people.”
When he’s not flying to California for TV show tapings, Raghavendran stays busy at UT Dallas. He is active in Student Government, now serving as legislative affairs chairman. He is a McDermott Scholar, a member of Model UN, a participant in intramurals and a cast member in Side Show, an upcoming campus musical production. Raghavendran also works in the lab of Dr. Rockford Draper, professor of biology, studying biomedical uses of carbon nanotubes.
His appearance is scheduled to air on Feb. 5 on CBS 11 at 11 a.m. He can’t reveal how well he did competing against his college peers.
“I’d like to keep the suspense,” Raghavendran said.
Above: Prashant Raghavendran (center) joins other college contestants preparing for competition on Jeopardy. Below: Raghavendran (upper left) was in Los Angeles on Jan. 3-7 to tape his appearance in the quiz show's annual College Championship tournament.
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