MIT Senior Makes Finals on Jeopardy!, Talks Shop with Trebek

by Julie Barr on February 21, 2017 · 15 comments

in Student Life

Lilly Chin ’17 and Alex Trebek

“I’m glad you are working on our future tools,” Alex Trebek, longtime host of Jeopardy! told Lilly Chin ’17 in the first round of College Championship Week as they discussed a microscopic-precision lathe she worked on in 2.72: Elements in Mechanical Design. After winning the first round, Chin finished on top in the semifinals and will compete in the two-day finals on February 23 and 24.

This year, Chin almost didn’t even apply to be on Jeopardy! After passing the online exam last year, she didn’t make it past the in-person interview. Luckily, she applied again and her persistence paid off. She was chosen to be a contestant on the show and headed to LA in January for filming. “As a Comparative Media Studies minor, I believe that I’m more curious than [some] about investigating different forms of media, whether it’s film, video games, or children’s literature,” says Chin. “The same curiosity leads me to seek out factoids about these media, which tend to get asked about on Jeopardy!

Along with her persistence and her natural curiosity, Chin attributes her success in Jeopardy! to the help of her friends and classmates. “I used Protobowl, a quizbowl game website created by MIT student Kevin Kwok ’17 to help me practice and study,” says Chin. “I also got advice from my old Graduate Resident Tutor in Random House, Phil Arevalo. Also, Pranjal Vachaspati ’14, who had a six-day winning streak on Jeopardy!, gave me advice on how to best play the game.” (MIT has a long history with Jeopardy! successes, read some below.)

“Even now, I’m still just astounded by the amount of support I’ve gotten,” says Chin. “Professors, administrators, MIT alumni from the ’70s, and even President Reif have reached out and told me that they’re cheering me on. I’m proud to represent the MIT community, and hope I can keep making MIT proud!”

Be sure to tune in and cheer on chin.

MIT, Jeopardy! Past Success Stories

Anurag Kashyap ’15 MEng ’16 won teen Jeopardy! in 2008.

Trevor Walker ’15 made it to the two-day finals for the College Championship Week on Jeopardy! in 2013, ending his streak as first runner-up in the finals.

Pranjal Vachaspati ’14 was a six-time champion on the show in 2016.

Marie McGraw ’12 was part of College Championship Week in 2012.

Vibin Kundukulam ’11 was on the show in 2008 and finished in second place.

Alex Trebek and Julia Collins MEng ’10

Julia Collins MEng ’10—a 20-time Jeopardy! champion—made history in spring 2014 earning nearly $430,000 and making her the female record holder for number of games and total winnings. Following her time on Jeopardy!, Collins was inspired to start Girls Like You and Me, a nonprofit that compiles information and interviews from women in interesting and successful careers to inspire young girls.

Anjali Tripathi ’09 was first on the show at the age of nine as part of a children’s edition and then again in 2008 for a reunion edition where she finished in first place.

Jiaqi Cui ’09 was a two-time champion on the show in 2009.

Amy Tyszkiewicz ’02 was a one-day champion on the show in 2010.

Chris Morse ’82 was on the show in 1997.

We know there must be more MIT students and alumni that have been on Jeopardy! Write us a comment if you or someone you know at MIT was on the show, we’d love to hear your story.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Reid Sheftall MD February 21, 2017 at 11:15 am

Go Lilly! We are so proud of you!!!


Alan Friot February 21, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Lilly I sincerely hope you WIN. But your example of the success of persistence to achieve a goal is to me the most important part of your success. Thank You! Thnk You!


Alan Friot February 21, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Sorry About the misspelling of Thank You


Andrew C. Thomas '04 February 21, 2017 at 1:18 pm
Tim Chambers February 21, 2017 at 7:57 pm

Win big, Lilly!


ltchin February 21, 2017 at 8:54 pm

You forgot to mention that Phil Arevalo was also a Jeopardy contestant 🙂


Jeffrey L. Schwartz '92 February 21, 2017 at 10:54 pm

I was a zero-day champion on 1/1/07.


Paul Schindler February 22, 2017 at 2:59 am

Paul Schindler 74 lost to Dave Traini in the fall of 1985.


Angela Chang '92 February 22, 2017 at 10:04 am

Jeff Schwartz ’92


Patricia Gorham February 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Having fun watching you. Go Lilly!


Jane Doe February 23, 2017 at 8:53 pm

What’s up with pushing the shirt sleeves all the way up?


Thethe February 24, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Hey she made it up there. Who cares about sleeves! The young lady is impressive!


Ron HOffmann February 24, 2017 at 9:04 pm

Congratulations, Lilly! Awesome final Jeopardy “question” 🙂


Alexandra Dixon February 24, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Kiran Kedlaya PhD 2000 was a one day champion in 2011. He was also a professor at MIT from 2003 to 2012.


Bobby Greenfeld '86 December 7, 2017 at 11:38 am

I was on Jeopardy! in 2003, answered a Daily Double question at the end of the game to pull into the lead, but lost in Final Jeopardy!.

The Daily Double Answer was this (in the Category “Signs and Symbols”): “The compass rose, which contains the cross of St. George, symbolizes this church’s communion.”
What was the Question?

The Final Jeopardy! Answer was this (in the Category “Countries”): “At the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, a giant Rubik’s Cube stood outside this country’s pavilion.” What was the Question?


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