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Clemson student competes on Jeopardy!


Bisacco and her fellow contestants on the show.

Have you ever dreamed of competing on Jeopardy? For Clemson student Pauline Bisaccio, this dream became a reality.
Born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Bisaccio moved to South Carolina for high school, after having grown up outside of Boston. She is a junior biochemistry and psychology major who hopes to attend medical school following her time at Clemson to work toward her goal of becoming a trauma surgeon.
During her sophomore year, Bisaccio received an email inviting her to apply for Jeopardy!’s National College Championship. She decided to apply on a whim in December 2020 with few expectations. To her surprise, roughly a month later she received an email to complete a Zoom interview with other potential candidates. The Zoom interview served as a camera test and demonstrated how the contestants played the game.
After the Zoom interview, she didn’t hear back until September 2021, when she was unofficially told that she was selected to compete on Jeopardy! as long as her background check was clean. Bisaccio expressed how intense the background check was, telling The Tiger she had to give the producers her dating profiles, social media, and even the names of her roommates, friends and family. Once her background check was cleared, she was told officially in early October that she would compete and represent Clemson University.
On Oct. 27, 2021, Bisaccio approved her Jeopardy! name introduction, and in November, she flew out to Los Angeles, California to film.
According to Bisaccio, Jeopardy! had strict guidelines regarding COVID-19. Even though they were not wearing masks during airtime, masks and social distancing were heavily enforced. Contestants were not allowed to eat except in designated areas and every contestant had separate rooms at the hotel.
Because of how often the contestants were wearing their masks, their makeup had to be constantly touched up. Bisaccio also mentioned the amount of makeup she had to wear for the show, saying it was “intense.” The studio lights required Bisaccio to wear a shade of foundation she compared to “2010s bronzer.” She was surprised to find that despite wearing such a dark shade, she appeared her exact shade on television.
Bisaccio had a great experience working with Mayim Bialik, Jeopardy!’s host. She and Bialik discussed how difficult her biology lab was, and that she cannot imagine taking classes like that online.
During the episode, she reminisced on a moment where she buzzed in, fully-confident with the right answer, but right as she heard “Pauline” she said, “my brain became an etch-a-sketch. It was like someone shook it and it was gone.” She quickly came up with “What is the Euphrates River” to answer the question “In Israel, not Hawaii, the Hula Valley is where 3 tributaries join to form this river.” The correct answer was “What is the Jordan River?”
When Clemson announced Bisaccio’s appearance on Jeopardy!, one of her professors, Dr. Seymour, emailed her with the subject line “someone has a hobby,” congratulating her on her appearance on Jeopardy!. Since her episode aired on Feb. 10, 2022, she has found herself in the hot seat during some of her classes.
When asked how she prepared for the show, Bisaccio admitted she didn’t do much to prepare. Jeopardy! producers did not give the contestants any idea of what to study, so many of them watched past episodes as well as studied the database of past questions.
She is on the Clemson Academic Team which helped her feel prepared for the show. Bisaccio stated that the National Academic Quiz Team (NAQT) style questions she is used to were more challenging to her than Jeopardy!’s shorter questions although she recommends studying for the word-play categories, as they were the most difficult to learn.  
Bisaccio’s advice for students hoping to compete on Jeopardy! is to “just apply because you never know.” Her advice for a student competing on Jeopardy! is to “just go out there and have fun. Don’t make yourself miserable and don’t be heartbroken if you lose.” She did not win, but she won a family of new friends across the country.

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