Record-Breaking MIT Alumna Questions the Jeopardy! Answers

by Jay London on May 19, 2014 · 3 comments

in Alumni Life, In the News, Modern Geekhood

Image via @JeopardyJulia

Image via @JeopardyJulia

Update: Julia Collins record-breaking 20-game winning streak came to an end in an episode that aired on Monday, June 2.

She will compete on on the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions on Wednesday, November 12. The tournament runs until Friday, November 21. Good luck, Julia!

When Julia Collins MEng ’10 appeared on Jeopardy! on May 30, she had already made history. She is the show’s winningest female contestant—with nearly $430,000 in earnings—and her 20 victories ranked third-best all time.

But after a win on episodes that aired on May 30, the self-described “aspiring polymath” passed David Madden for second-most wins all time. She broke the record for victories by a female contestant with her sixth straight win earlier in May. (All-time record holder Ken Jennings won 74 games in 2004.)

“I had no idea I had broken the record until someone told me,” Collins says. “I was only focused on winning. But only three other contestants in history have won more games than me. I’m not just pretty good for a girl, I’m pretty good for anyone.”

The Chicago-based Collins, who graduated from MIT’s Supply Chain Management Program,  was selected to appear on the show in December 2013 after a tryout in Detroit earlier that year. She filmed all of her appearances—five episodes per day—during separate visits to the show’s Los Angeles studios earlier this year.

“I felt like I was prepared as I could be going in the show,” she says. “There’s not much time to be nervous—before you know it, the game is over.”

The biggest drama during the 20-game streak came during her ninth win when Collins—who says her most knowledgeable subjects are children’s literature and pop culture—encountered three topics she knew nothing about: gambling, crime dramas, and animal anagrams.

But while the categories can seem impossible, they are not even the most difficult part of the show

“The buzzer might be the trickiest—it’s an art and a science,” Collins says. “I think I was locked out for buzzing in early a few times. But you just keep hitting it.”

Screenshot via Jeopardy!

Screenshot via Jeopardy!

Collins knows the outcome of each game and she live-tweets her performance using the handle @JeopardyJulia. Her tweets have caught the attention of CNN and Good Morning America, and she has more than 9,500 followers.

“It’s weird to watch yourself on television,” she says. “I can see the look of frustration on my face when I don’t know an answer. Plus, it’s interesting to see the dynamics of the other contestants.”

Regardless of future results, Collins’ five victories have already qualified her for Jeopardy! tournament play in the future.

“It was an amazing experience and I’m glad I can show that in my tweets,” she says. “We’ll see how much longer it goes. I’m just enjoying it while it lasts.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

P. Michael Hutchins May 23, 2014 at 9:03 am

I didn’t find anything in the article that the title refers to,


Mary May 29, 2014 at 8:16 am

I thought that too, but on second glance, I think the title just refers to Julia’s answering the clues with a question.


Jay London May 29, 2014 at 11:12 am

Hi P. Michael and Mary,

How are you? Thanks for reading. Yes, the title is just a play on Jeopardy! contestants using answers as questions, i.e. “What is…?” Sorry for any confusion it might have caused.

Jay London


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