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From Local Trivia Nights to the Big Stage

Graduate Student Competes on ‘Jeopardy!’

By Liam Farrell

Alex Trebek and Steven Reich on the set of Jeopardy!

Photo by Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Host Alex Trebek stands with Steven Reich on the set of "Jeopardy!" The UMD doctoral student will appear on tonight's episode of the show.

University of Maryland doctoral student Steven Reich regularly attends pub quiz nights in the College Park area, but tonight he stands on trivia’s biggest stage by competing on “Jeopardy!”

Reich graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 and is working toward a doctorate in mathematics in College Park by studying algebraic number theory. While confident in his math and science prowess, he did brush up on Shakespeare in case the Bard turned up on the board.

“It’s easy to get kind of tunnel vision on the math stuff,” he said. “Trivia is a nice way to encourage my own learning.”

Reich, who is from southeastern Pennsylvania, had taken the online “Jeopardy!” test multiple times before getting a call from producers in June. After powering through a written test, mock game and in-person interview, he was chosen to be a contestant for this season. Tonight’s episode was filmed in August.

He got some practice time with the infamous “Jeopardy!” buzzer, but said there really was no substitute for handling it on camera before longtime host Alex Trebek.

“It’s definitely tricky,” he said.

As Reich continues his studies at UMD, he is weighing his options for next steps. While he loves teaching, the possibilities of using machine learning in areas such as cancer research have also caught his imagination.

“There are some really beneficial uses of it,” he said. “That’s something really exciting to me.”



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