Research Assistant Professor at UR Medical Center Timothy Mhyre proved his trivia skills with a lucrative win on Jeopardy this May. Mhyre won his first game with a total of $8,999. He came in second in his second game and received a $2,000 consolation prize.

“At first you’re nervous, but then you get into your zone,” Mhyre said about playing on the game show. Mhyre certainly knows about nerves. At UR he researches Parkinson’s disease ? a degenerative nerve disease.

According to Mhyre, in his collaborative research with Professor Eric Richfield, he hopes to discover a gene that is involved in the cause or prevention of the devastating disease.

Mhyre compared doing research with playing Jeopardy. “Buzzing in is the hardest thing,” Mhyre said, explaining that the frustrations of buzzing in are similar to the frustrations of research. “Both have an element of trial and error,” he said.

Before appearing on the television screen, contestants on Jeopardy must go through several qualifying rounds. Mhyre began this process at a March 2001 contestant search in Buffalo.

The contestant search, which started with hundreds of people, was reduced by a first round written exam, and a second round quiz. “To make it into the final contestant pool you had to get 35 questions out of 50 correct,” Mhyre said about a third round exam. Those in the final contestant pool then played mock Jeopardy games to demonstrate what they would be like on the show.

In April 2002 ? 14 months later ? Mhyre received a phone call informing him that he was scheduled to play on Jeopardy in May. “I only had a month, so I got a couple trivia books and crammed,” Mhyre said.

“My worst subjects are sports, opera and geography,” Mhyre said. Ironically, both of the Final Jeopardy categories Mhyre encountered were on geography. “In my first game nobody got the question on East Coast Islands correct,” Mhyre said.

In the second game Mhyre was disappointed with a Final Jeopardy question on Mediterranean countries.

Contestants on Jeopardy pay their own way to a Culver City, California studio where the show is taped.

“Contestant coordinators rev you up for the show,” Mhyre said, adding that before a show a mock game is played for contestants to acquaint themselves with the buzzer.

Mhyre was kept in the dark before his game. Five shows are taped in a day ? contestants are told if they will play 15 minutes prior to a show. The categories are not made known until they pop up in yellow letters on the Jeopardy screen at the onset of each round.

“Everybody asks me what Alex [Trebek] is like,” Mhyre said. Despite some nationally televised teasing, Mhyre holds a positive opinion of the game-show host.

During the “tell a story” part of the show Mhyre told Trebek how he was once mistaken to be manatee in the background of a photo taken during a snorkeling trip. On the second show, Mhyre talked about his habit of singing Bob Dylan’s “House of the Rising Sun” at parties.

Overall, Mhyre enjoyed the experience of playing Jeopardy. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” he said. The only other game show Mhyre would be interested in is “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” where according to Mhyre “there is much more money to be won.”

Caselli can be reached at

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