USC Sophomore Faces a TV Quiz
Sarah Nothnagel will represent USC at this year’s Jeopardy! College Championship being taped at the Galen Center.
Instead, she showed up as usual at her job as a research assistant at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Collaborative High Altitude Flow Facility.
“But when I got to work, my boss and another co-worker told me I should go try out,” she said.
And it’s a good thing she did – after a few rounds of pre-testing, Nothnagel advanced to the point where she was the only female of the 15 finalists vying to represent USC at the Jeopardy! College Championship to be taped at the USC Galen Center on April 21 and 22.
Nothnagel’s enthusiasm and personality – along with her intelligence – ultimately helped her claim the spot. At the championship, she will compete against undergraduates from 14 other universities and colleges across the country.
“I just want to be able to say ‘Let’s make it a true daily double, Alex,’ ” she said, referring to host Alex Trebek. “But not if I have too much money.”
Nothnagel, a Presidential Scholar, juggles a17-unit course load with an astonishing range of extracurricular activities: Society of Women Engineers, Associated Trustee & Presidential Scholars, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, tae kwon do and volunteerism at the Natural History Museum.
Nothnagel said that her habit of “avid reading” helped tremendously during the auditions. She especially enjoys reading science fiction and fantasy.
Shakespeare, however, never made it onto her reading list. “Those questions got me on the pre-tests,” she admitted.
A lifelong Southern California resident, Nothnagel was drawn to USC by the unique astronautics program at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “I like that it lets you build something concrete with your knowledge,” she said. She has wanted to be an astronaut since she was 5, she said.
At the Collaborative High Altitude Flow Facility, she helps conducts rocket propulsion research. “I do a little bit of everything there,” she said. “It’s all stuff that will definitely apply to any engineering jobs I have later on.”
Having just completed a research project on gas flow over textured surfaces, she is now putting together an experiment to test ion propulsion – an energy-efficient way for rockets to move through space.
And while she admits to being nervous about game day, Nothnagel is not quite sure how to prepare. There may be some brushing up on U.S. presidents and state capitals, she said.
Wardrobe is not an issue, however. For her small-screen debut, she purchased a new USC sweatshirt.
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