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Architecture professor appears on Jeopardy

Assistant professor of architecture Pablo Garcia came within $1 of winning NBC’s game show *Jeopardy*. (credit: Courtesy of Pablo Garcia) Assistant professor of architecture Pablo Garcia came within $1 of winning NBC’s game show *Jeopardy*. (credit: Courtesy of Pablo Garcia) Garcia’s stint on *Jeopardy* realized his decade-old dream and brought architecture majors together as they watched their professor perform.  (credit: Travis Wolfe/Photo Staff) Garcia’s stint on *Jeopardy* realized his decade-old dream and brought architecture majors together as they watched their professor perform. (credit: Travis Wolfe/Photo Staff)

One of Carnegie Mellon’s own professors was a contestant last Friday on NBC’s Jeopardy. Pablo Garcia, an assistant professor in the School of Architecture, was one of the three players on the game show.

After trying out for the game back in 1999 and not advancing to Los Angeles to film the show, Garcia decided to give it another shot a decade later. Currently, much of the application process is online. When Garcia tried out, the application was made up of 50 questions in 50 categories to be answered in only eight minutes. Any of the applicants correctly answering 35 or more questions automatically advanced to the next round in New York.

There, all qualifiers participated in a mock version of the game. According to Garcia, at this level, winning was less important than in other rounds. Instead, it was crucial for producers to observe potential contestants’ interactions with the game. The reasoning for this, Garcia said, is so that producers know a potential contestant’s online test “wasn’t a fluke.”

After competing in New York, Garcia’s next step was to wait. Eventually, Garcia received a call asking him to be in Los Angeles in three weeks to film an episode of the show. Thus, for the next three weeks, Garcia read trivia and watched past Jeopardy episodes in order to learn about the style of questions asked.

Garcia traveled to Culver City, Calif., to appear in an episode of the show. Upon arrival, Garcia was surprised to be taken via shuttle to the Sony Pictures Studio, which, to Garcia, looked very similar to a warehouse. Garcia remarked on the building’s modest exterior, a definite contrast to the Jeopardy stage, which he described as “a very shiny place.” Garcia was also surprised by the size of the video screen that holds the game’s 30 clues. He said that each box is a 30-inch flat-screen TV, which, when six rows of six are stacked on top of each other, created a nicely-sized viewing board.

When it was his turn to compete, Garcia found the pace of play to be very rapid. It took only 40 minutes to film a 22-minute episode, and questions are asked one after the other in a seemingly endless string of miscellaneous trivia.

Garcia described his match as a back-and-forth battle between him and his main competitor, Elizabeth Galoozis, a 27-year-old reference librarian. Garcia’s third competitor, Lisa Dengate, held a score that remained far below those of Garcia and Galoozis. Each time Galoozis fell behind, she would catch back up to Garcia again by acing a Daily Double. Again, after Garcia went on a brief winning streak, Galoozis answered several questions correctly as well. This cycle continued into Final Jeopardy, when, before the last question, Garcia had $11,600 to Galoozis’ $14,000.

In deciding what to make as his final wager, Garcia decided to base it on the category. “If I see British monarchs, I’ll play more defensively. If I see architecture, I’ll play more offensively,” he said.

The Final Jeopardy category was “Artists” and the question: “In 1882, this artist wrote that ‘Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony, and music inside me.’ ” Garcia’s reasoning relied on the clue “misery,” which led him to the answer of Vincent Van Gogh. Though he got the answer correct, his opponent bet just enough to take the final lead.

By how much? One dollar.

Garcia described the outcome as one based on a game that “is so random” and “luck-filled.”

Apart from the game play, Garcia was surprised to see two sides to the game’s host, Alex Trebek. According to Garcia, while the cameras are rolling, Trebek maintains a serious exterior; however, there’s also a light-hearted man beneath. “Trebek does a great job of entertaining,” Garcia said.

Those who watch Jeopardy may wonder what Trebek talks about during the show’s end credits.

Garcia, with a straight face, explained that Trebek talked with a contestant about ferrets, as well as began a discussion of the possibility of owning a wolverine.
Cassie Osterman, a first-year architecture major, got together with many fellow architecture majors to watch Garcia, who she described as “riveting,” on the air.

Stephen Lee, professor and head of the School of Architecture, was excited to hear that students joined together to watch their professor, saying that “getting together in a social setting is important to our mental health and fun.” Regarding Garcia’s participation in the non-design event, Lee said: “My agenda is to promote and encourage interdisciplinary education and research … so [Garcia’s participation] was perfect.”