News Room

UI alum to appear on TV game show

Fri, 12/02/2011 – 8:00am | Paul Wood, staff writer, The News Gazette

Bhibha Das.

Which “Jeopardy!” contestant’s name rhymes with “diva”? according to Alex Trebek’s notecard.

University of Illinois alumna Das — also Mount Zion class of 1998 valedictorian — met Trebek as a contestant a few months ago.

She will appear on the show this afternoon but was not allowed by the rules of the game to say any more about later appearances.

The episode is scheduled to air at 4:30 p.m. today on WAND-TV.

Das, 30, earned her doctorate in kinesiology from the UI in May.

Now doing postdoctoral work at the University of Georgia, Das said Trebek’s mnemonic device, to help him pronounce her first name correctly, shows off his wit.

“He’s a funny guy with an interesting sense of humor — every nerd’s dream,” she said.

Das is more of a jock than a nerd — her doctorate is in exercise science, which she augments with daily workouts — but she’s definitely the “Jeopardy!” type.

“From an early age, I can’t remember anything I would rather do than read,” she said in a telephone interview.

Learning was part of her family environment.

“My sister and I were always encouraged to read; we grew up in a house full of books,” she said. “I’m never alone with a book. I prefer reading to television to this day” — with “Jeopardy!” an obvious exception.

Her favorite book is a lot of people’s favorite book, Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

“It’s one of those books I can turn to anytime and find something new. It’s timeless — it still has lessons to teach about how people can learn to hate,” she said.

She also is a big fan of author Jane Smiley.

Though bookish, she says she comes off as an extrovert, but remains an introvert inside.

Das, who describes herself as “a huge fan of the show,” said she practiced for her tryout.

“I just memorized a few things. I like to read, I like to watch trivia shows, so I did practice — because I’m a little weak on composers and opera,” she said.

What she knows best is exercise science.

“Kinesiology came up four or five time times. I flipped the category — but it didn’t count toward my score in Friday’s game, unfortunately,” she said.

Das’ postdoctoral work focuses on work-site wellness.

“The project I’m working on right now is the Freshman 15,” she said. “I prefer to do translational research, which turns research into practice.”

To help counter those added pounds, Das encourages lifestyle physical exercise, working stair-climbing and other workouts into daily life.

As for herself, Das works out five times a week for 45 minutes at a time, she said. “I only allow myself to read fun books while on the elliptical.”

Das interviewed for the game show at the end of May, then went to Lexington, Ky., on July 11 for a tryout.

The show is filmed six weeks in advance.

Though she already knows the outcome, she encourages the UI community to cheer her on.