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Stanford Team Takes National Quiz Bowl

The Stanford team that competed in last weekend's national quiz bowl championship, from left to right: Kristiaan De Greve, Brian Linquist and Arnav Moudgil. Not pictured: Andrew Yaphe. (Image: Julie Karceski.)

SLAC's own Brian Lindquist, a fifth-year physics graduate student working on BaBar, and his team mates from Stanford won a national quiz bowl championship last weekend. Stanford's quiz bowl team, made up of both graduate and undergraduate students, sent a team of four to the tournament at the University of Maryland.

The first day was a blizzard of preliminary rounds, and Stanford lost only one match, to the University of Minnesota.

"It was a really grueling day," Lindquist said of Saturday, when the team played thirteen matches between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. During matches, a moderator reads prepared questions to the two teams, who can discuss the answer amongst themselves before buzzing in.

Stanford had no losses during the Sunday semi-finals. Minnesota suffered a loss during the semis, and as the only two teams with one loss apiece, Stanford and Minnesota met in the finals for a rematch.

Early in the game, Stanford was cruising and up by a wide margin of points. Minnesota won points on a computer science question, which Lindquist protested because he was dissatisfied with Minnesota's answer. The judges decided to wait until the end of the match to rule on the protested question. Minnesota began to gain steam, and as the end neared, was up by 40 points. Stanford needed to win 10 points on a tossup question and 30 points on a bonus question in order to tie. They were unable to overcome the point deficit.

Then the judges circled back to the question that Lindquist had protested. The question's author, who was not on hand, was contacted at home to determine if Minnesota's answer was correct.

"They resolved the protest in our favor and we were declared champions," Lindquist said. "I'm very glad that we were able to win a national championship against such incredible competition."

As a graduate student in physics, Lindquist's area of specialty within the quiz bowl world is all things physics, math, computer science and astronomy. He practices with the quiz bowl team twice a week for three hours, in addition to what he calls "binge study sessions" on his own. But in a game where the questions can range from Japanese literature to particle physics to the history of Chinese dynasties, he also sees a need to bone up on other fields of study in preparation for the national championship.

"I was trying to figure out our knowledge gaps," he said. "I spent a lot of time studying earth science and math, but also world history."

During the championship weekend, his particle physics day job came in handy when he aced a question on Bhabha scattering—a process important to the BaBar experiment.

"My advisor would be proud of me," he said.

—Julie Karceski
SLAC Today, April 22, 2010