Saad is a contestant on JEOPARDY! [part 1]

July 4, 2010 25 comments

(I updated the entry on July 8 to provide more detail about what you don’t get to see on TV.)

The Essentials

What: watch JEOPARDY!

In the 2nd commercial break, everyone gets their photo taken with the man.

Date: Monday, July 12

Time: check your local listings

This blog post [part 1] describes (a) the lead-up to how I ended up being a contestant on Jeopardy! and (b) my experiences at the studio in Los Angeles.  After the show airs on July 12, I will post [part 2] describing my in-game thoughts.  To get the [part 2] post by email, use the link on the right sidebar “Sign up to receive email notification of new posts!”

The Lead-up

Becoming a contestant on Jeopardy! was a happy accident, because I didn’t know the online test even existed until January 2008. I had driven from Nashville to New Mexico for an internship and I was staying with my friend Guillaume while I searched for my own place to stay. His wife, Raea, told us that the online test would be open that time, so I decided to try it with them. All I remember is that the test questions went by quickly. Four months later, I received an automated email inviting me to an audition in Dallas the following month. The timing for the audition was not great, because I was presenting at a conference in Phoenix the day before and would have to fly out very early the day of the audition. Inevitably, I overslept and got to see my plane back away from the gate, but luckily I got on the next plane and was able to grab a quick lunch before getting to the audition site.

There were several parts to the audition. We started by completing interview fact sheets and being photographed with a Polaroid camera by the Jeopardy! staff. Next was another test, this time written. Finally, we stood at the front of the room, three at a time, and played a mock game. In the game portion, I struggled with the buzzer, reaching a point where I just wanted to ring in first. I remember buzzing in at least once with no notion of the correct answer, happy only to get the timing correct. After the game portion, the contestants were interviewed by the staff including one producer, Maggie. I thought I did better on this part (thanks, in big part, to having started Toastmasters three months earlier) but nothing about my game play suggested that I could compete on the actual show. On top of that, I thought I looked frazzled from my travel. I figured that I had no chance of passing this stage. They told us that we would be placed in a contestant pool for 18 months, and if we didn’t hear from them in that time, I inferred that things ended there. Read more…

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Categories: Life Tags:

Doing Things in Sweden

May 29, 2010 3 comments

This is a smoked reindeer sandwich. You can find smoked reindeer in the deli section of your local grocery store where it’s called rökt renstek. I didn’t remember the Swedish word for turkey, so everything in the store was mystery meat except for renstek – see the logo on the packet. Also, it is delicious and I will probably eat a lot of it in my time here.

Props to scientist Carl Linnaeus for getting himself on the C-note.

This is Swedish money. In addition to the bills there are coins for 10, 5, and 1 kronor. The 10 kr coin is worth a bit more than $1 US, so it’s useful for tipping in bars and restaurants. The other coins are as useless as pennies.

Elsewhere: I lined up a 1-BR apartment for the summer and I stopped by the office (here) to apply for my key, access card, and online passwords. Got to chat with a few colleagues, and the conversations reinforced my belief that this was the right place to come work. The scientists are talented and the work in the group leans more toward applied science. I am excited to get started.

Future blog posts will revolve around my work and adventures in this new place, so if you’re interested in reading my stories and seeing my photos, take a moment to subscribe to the email notification on the right sidebar.

Getting things done.

May 28, 2010 3 comments

1. Finish PhD. Nothing more needs to be said after five years.

Dr. Sameer Mahajan (left) and Dr. Saad Hasan (right) with PhD advisor Prof. James Dickerson (center).

2. Vanderbilt Toastmasters club receives charter. Congratulations to the 21 chartering members of the new Vanderbilt Toastmasters club! The new-member materials arrived last week and will be distributed to everyone at the next meeting. This is the culmination of a year-long effort to grow the club’s presence at Vanderbilt. I am excited to see what the new officers will do next year, in terms of both cultivating amazing speakers who win at competitions (and job interviews and cocktail parties and dates) and staging campus-wide events that raise the club’s profile at Vanderbilt.

Categories: Life, Nanotech, toastmasters

Give amazing presentations even with Powerpoint.

February 11, 2010 4 comments

Previously, I pointed you to what Steve Jobs does in making awesome presentations.  As I’ve read more on presentations using visual aids, I’ve come across a couple blogs on how to get the most out of Powerpoint for your talks.  I point you to a couple example posts on each blog.

“Takahashi method” – on Presentation Zen

“What’s wrong with templates?” – Presentation Advisors (impressively, only one guy)

There are countless ways to incorporate PPT in a presentation, and the optimal way will vary with the nature of the presentation.  These blogs have so many ideas, I will definitely have fun trying to work different elements into my talks, which will be a challenge since science talks are usually so data/visual-heavy.

This is amazing. Use it.

January 5, 2010 1 comment

Go here to see a slideshow on “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.”  Then try to incorporate some of those tips the next time you give a presentation, especially if its a powerpoint.

(H/T Harman.)

How I paid 62 cents for a brand new hardcover bestseller.

October 9, 2009 2 comments

I went to Borders tonight because I had $15 in Borders Bucks that needed to be spent this month before they expired.

Retail price of book: $25.95

-Apply 40% off coupon-

Subtotal: $15.57

-Apply Borders Bucks-

Subtotal: $0.57

TN 9.25% Sales Tax: $0.05

Total: $0.62

Saving money is one of my interests, but what does it have to do with nanotechnology research? Read more…

Categories: In the lab, Money, On the web Tags: , ,

Lessons in Winning Over an Audience: Use Metaphors

September 9, 2009 2 comments

Very few things in life are as satisfying as a highly appropriate and effectively deployed metaphor.  Last month, with the start of the school year, our Materials Science program had its kickoff lunch to welcome the new students.  The centerpiece of this gathering is the Sales Pitch Contest, in which current students have three minutes to inform the judges (the new students) of their research and how awesome it is.

My friend Joy Garnett, starting her second year, works on linking together nanoparticles.  The motivation for this research is to have the nanoparticles serve as a conduit for light.  Without getting into hardcore condensed matter physics… the discussion of periodic structures—structures with a building block that is repeated with equal spacing, such as crystal lattices or photonic crystals—is nearly ubiquitous in materials science.  Unsurprisingly, Joy’s goal is to make her nanoparticles equally spaced apart and control the spacing between them.

In the three minutes allocated for her Sales Pitch, Joy did not explain the intricacies of why light behaves specially in periodic structures.  (Wise move, as new students haven’t taken condensed matter class yet.)  Instead, she told us about the classic video game, Super Mario Brothers. Read more…

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