Carnegie Mellon University
February 13, 2022

Biological Sciences' Kristin Donegan to Compete in Jeopardy! National College Championship

By Bruce Gerson

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9928

News Update: February 16

Kristin Donegan advanced to the semifinals of the Jeopardy! National College Championship last Tuesday and is now one of 12 semifinalists playing for the $250,000 grand prize. She will try to advance to the next round at 8 p.m., Friday, February 18, when she faces off against students from Northeastern University and the University of Minnesota. The game show airs on ABC and streams on Hulu.

"It's been really great to see this outpouring of support from everyone watching me,” said Donegan, who attended the campus watch party on Tuesday. “Going into the tournament, I decided I would be satisfied as long as I won my first game, so I'm so happy that I was able to make that happen. I'm incredibly excited. I can't say much, but Friday is going to have some crazy matches!"

It’s a lifelong dream come true for Kristin Donegan. The senior biological sciences major and self-proclaimed trivia nut will compete on Jeopardy! National College Championship at 8:30 ET, Tuesday, February 15 on ABC and streaming on Hulu.

Donegan, who competed in middle school and high school trivia contests, has been trying out for Jeopardy! by taking the online test regularly since she arrived at CMU as a first-year student. Studying remotely during COVID, she watched the game show with her parents every weeknight from their home in Towson, Maryland.

Last winter, she was selected to audition on Zoom. She said the audition was similar to the online test, but with different questions, of course, and a proctor watched to make sure participants weren’t looking up the answers.

“I passed the audition and a few weeks later attended a mock Zoom game with eight other contestants,” Donegan said. “We played with a virtual board and were asked questions about ourselves to see if we would be interesting on TV.”

Spoiler alert: she was interesting.

“Finding out I got to film was incredible,” she said, “especially since I got the call at the end of a bad day when I broke my laptop. The first few days after I learned the news, I had trouble paying attention in class because all I could think about was Jeopardy!”

Donegan is one of 36 students from colleges and universities across the country who will battle it out in this year’s tournament for the $250,000 grand prize. Hosted by actress Mayim Bialik, best known for her role as Amy on The Big Bang Theory, the tournament was taped this past November in Los Angeles, and began airing on Tuesday, February 8. The tournament will run through Tuesday, February 22.

“I had to miss a few classes to make it to LA early enough to get a COVID test and I also had to get a PCR test before leaving, so Tartan Testing was really helpful,” she said. “I got really close to some of the contestants who I spent a lot of time with. And getting my makeup done and being on stage was super exciting!”

CMU is hosting a watch party in honor of her accomplishment from 8 – 9 p.m., Tuesday, February 15 in the Cohon Center’s McConomy Auditorium, where the campus community can gather to watch and cheer on Donegan as she competes in her opening round. Two episodes will be shown, with Donegan competing from 8:30 – 9 p.m. Doors to McConomy Auditorium open at 7:30 p.m. The Connan room will be used for overflow.

Donegan is expected to say a few words and answer questions following the show.

“I’m really excited for everyone to watch me live out one of my dreams," Donegan said. “I don’t want to go too much into how I’m feeling because I don’t think I can do so without spoiling how I do.”

Apparently, Donegan isn’t the only one in her family who’s a trivia ace. Her fraternal twin sister, Ciara, a senior at the University of Maryland, will be on the show March 24.

“Our parents are over the moon about us both getting on and it’s even crazier that we’ll be appearing about six weeks apart,” she said.

Donegan is an excellent student at CMU, making the Mellon College of Science Dean’s List every semester. She is co-president of the Global Medical Brigades and a member of the Kiltie Band’s color guard. She is applying to medical school but hopes to take a gap year before attending, during which time she plans to work as an EMT and volunteer at health clinics.