Chemical engineers win first place in jeopardy

Emily Hernandez

Winning first place in an international chemical engineering jeopardy competition may be unimaginable to some, but for four UT chemical engineering seniors, it became a reality.

Nicholas Curtis, Joann Gu, Kishan Ramachandran and Josh Winnert are members of the UT-Austin chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, a global organization for chemical engineers. The students claimed first place and $400 in a jeopardy competition held Oct. 27, during the student portion of the institute’s annual conference in Pittsburgh.

Universities across the country and around the world competed in the competition at both regional and national levels. 

“It was definitely fun to go with … your friends and the chemical engineering family,” Ramachandran said. “We all met up before the jeopardy competition, so it’s fun to have everyone cheer you on and have that excitement of being there and competing for first place.”

At nationals, the jeopardy contest has a similar structure to the game show, with a quarterfinal, semifinal and final round. The UT team won first place at regionals last spring, so they automatically competed in the national semifinal round.

The UT team was losing throughout their final round, which was against Louisiana State University and Brigham Young University. They bet all their points for the last question, which asked about four items of safety processes, a topic they happened to study that day.

“(The judge) was reading through the (last) team’s answers, and they had gotten three right,” Curtis said. “(When he read) the fourth one, they had a very similar-sounding word that wasn’t quite right. After he said that, we all realized we had just won, and there was just screaming, pounding on the tables, general Texas hooligans. It was a good time.” 

Four of the five categories in each round pertained to chemical engineering, while the fifth could be any topic, ranging from Supreme Court justices to Disney villains. Riley Shuping, president of the UT chapter of American Institute of Chemical Engineers, competed regionally but gave his spot to Ramachandran this semester. He said the fifth category usually generates some laughs.

“It’s a good test of a well-rounded team, because if you have a team that is well-rounded, and usually ours is, they can just sweep one of those categories,” chemical engineering senior Shuping said.