After honing their skills over Zoom, a team of USC Viterbi quiz champions finally had the chance to hit their buzzers in person on the national stage. From November 5 – 8, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Student Conference hosted the national final of the ChemE Jeopardy competition in Boston, bringing together the nation’s brightest chemical engineering and materials science student minds.
ChemE Jeopardy is a reimagining of the popular quiz show where questions and answers are drawn from chemical engineering coursework, along with a round of selected general knowledge topics.
In a nail-biting contest, a student team from the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science won the western conference final, which was held in April. As regional champions, the team, comprised of captain Matthew Jeon and fellow Mork students Nick Nuccio, Drake Sorkhab, Long Huynh and Cynthia Ionova, was invited to compete in the Boston national final and attend the AIChE student conference.
USC has had a strong showing in ChemE Jeopardy in recent years, taking top honors in 2019. The contest was won by this year by University of Iowa. While the Mork team unfortunately bowed out to University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the semifinals in a tense tie-breaker, Ionova said that being able to compete in-person and mix with fellow AIChE student chapter members in Boston was a valuable experience. The team even ended up bonding with their UMBC colleagues.
Said Ionova: “We actually ended up talking to the team that beat us, and we’re going to study together, we’re going to collab and we’re gonna come for University of Iowa next year!”
Ionova said that the team’s training strategy involved compiling hundreds of previous ChemE Jeopardy questions to test their knowledge.
“We tried to get team members that are good at a variety of things so, even though the majority of it is chemical engineering there’s always a non-engineering category, such as sports or cuisine, and this year it was automobile logos,” she said. “We have one or two team members that are really good at general trivia. As a kid, our captain would go on Wikipedia and just read pages for fun.”
This was Ionova’s second time competing at the national level but her first time doing so in-person, after the pandemic forced last year’s event to go virtual. Ionova said Jeopardy was intensely challenging over Zoom, as it was hard to participate in the contest via one application on her computer while trying to consult with her teammates on a Discord chat.
“My computer did not like that!” she said.
“We were really excited to win the Western regional because it meant that we would go to Boston,” Ionova said. “And, considering that last year I competed in the nationals in my childhood bedroom, going to Boston and having that experience was really fun and the conference had a ton of great events, keynote speakers and workshops.”
Published on November 22nd, 2021
Last updated on November 22nd, 2021