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Chicago Data Scientist Ends 4-Day ‘Jeopardy’ Run With $35,549 In Winnings

West Bucktown resident Alex Damisch is now settling back into her routine, which includes weekly trivia at Logan Square's Navigator Taproom.

Alex Damisch, of West Bucktown, stands with Alex Trebek while competing on "Jeopardy" this fall.
Alex Damisch / Provided
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BUCKTOWN — After years of playing quizbowl and auditioning four times for “Jeopardy,” Alex Damisch finally landed a spot on the famous TV game show.

After winning three times and landing $35,549 in winnings, however, Damisch failed to win to advance once again in an episode that aired at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.  

Damisch, a 25-year-old West Bucktown resident and data scientist, said she will boost her savings account and finance a honeymoon trip through Greece, Ukraine and Georgia with her fiancé with her winnings. And at least 10 percent will go toward charities she cares about, including her hometown church, Saints Peter & Paul Greek Orthodox in Glenview, and her neighborhood church, Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral at 1121 N. Leavitt St. in Ukrainian Village.

Credit: Alex Damisch / Provided
Alex Damisch, center, and her fiancé and family members celebrate her “Jeopardy” winnings.

She was glad she was able to make it to the fourth game, she added.

“I tried to keep my mindset realistic and humble,” she said. “Anything else [after three games] would have been icing on the cake.” 

Damisch, a Northbrook native, grew up watching Jeopardy with her family. After school ended at 3:15 p.m., she’d race home to hopefully catch Double Jeopardy on TV. 

As a college student in Wisconsin, she competed in quizbowl, an activity she continued as a graduate student at DePaul University in Chicago. 

She auditioned for Jeopardy once as a college student. She later auditioned three more times. 

In order to land an audition, would-be contestants must pass a test, something Damisch did four times.

But it was during the course of four auditions that she learned there was more to getting onto Jeopardy than just “being smart.”

Credit: Alex Damisch / Provided
Alex Damisch, of West Bucktown, competed on “Jeopardy” this fall.

“I started to notice I was talking too quickly,” she said. “Some people drag out the interviews. … It’s not about being smart as much as it is getting someone who can look good on TV.” 

For Damisch, the fourth audition was the charm.

She was invited to compete in Jeopardy tapings in late September and in early October. Her four episodes aired on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Monday and Tuesday. 

Credit: Alex Damisch / Provided
Alex Damisch, of West Bucktown, competed on “Jeopardy” this fall.

Damisch and her fiancé, John O’Neill, plan to wed in September of next year. He now goes by the nickname “coach,” Damisch said.

“He really dropped everything to help me prepare,” she said.

The pair would watch the show while Damisch stood behind a standing desk. She used a clicking pen to “ring in” while O’Neill kept score.

“He wouldn’t yell answers at the TV,” she said. “[We] simulated the game day as much as we could.” 

Part of her preparation included studying up on old Jeopardy shows.

And that paid off. During her research of past shows, Damisch learned the competition favors categories related to animal science. Sure enough, this week, Damisch correctly answered a $1,000 question about animals.

One thing contestants can’t prepare for is the cost of being on the show, Damisch said.

Jeopardy does not pay for contestants’ flights or hotel bills. Contestants pay taxes on their winnings, too. 

Credit: Alex Damisch / Provided
Alex Damisch, left, and her uncle celebrate her “Jeopardy” winnings.

“It is actually pretty expensive to be on Jeopardy,” she said.

After appearing in four episodes — the first of which aired at 3:30 p.m Thanksgiving Day — Damisch said she’s ready to get back to normal life. 

She looks forward to re-joining her trivia teammates, also data scientists, for weekly play at Navigator Taproom, 2211 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Their team name is, fittingly: “She blinded me with data science.” 

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