ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Mihir Nene, essentially fresh out of engineering school at UCONN, got a chance to strut his stuff on Jeopardy!, a show he grew up watching.

The born and raised Connecticut man moved to Rochester after school to work for AVANGRID.

In a particularly young group, Nene scored a solid $24,999 in his first game. While he may have lost his second game, Nene was nothing but smiles when News 8 caught up with him on his first game show experience. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

We’ve talked Jeopardy! contestants before a lot of them have this inspiration. They know they’ve wanted to do it for a long time. Talk to me about that with you.

Yeah, definitely a childhood desire there. I share a birthday with Alex Trebek, that was one thing. I also just grew up watching the show pretty much every day at 7 p.m. I was there watching it live on TV, and in high school and college, I didn’t follow it as much, but I’d still DVR the episodes and then binge watch them.

It was just always my favorite show, because I would play along, ever since I was watching it. I really felt that it was something that I did really well, almost like my sport.

So most of us have not gone on to compete on Jeopardy, obviously. But talking about your process, of getting on the show, what does that look like? How did it go for you?

So I’m sure it was a little different for me than it has been for past contestants. My application process was during COVID, so I had actually taken the anytime online test that they have when I was still in college. I’d applied initially for both the adult tournament and the college tournament. But by the time I went through the first two tests, I had graduated, so I wasn’t eligible for the college tournament anymore, which would have been cool. I would have loved to represent my school at the tournament.

But I was still super excited, because it takes a while between like each stage of the selection process. Typically, the audition I think is held in person in a select few cities. But actually, it was really convenient this time, because of COVID. They did the audition over Zoom, which was a little weird, because the way audition works is you’re playing like a simulated round of Jeopardy!, right? And so without being in a mock stage setup, you’re just doing it from like, your living room or wherever.

Take us through the behind-the-scenes on what it was like being on the Jeopardy! stage, walking us through that experience?

Being on set was absolutely just the coolest experience ever. When they say when you’re backstage, technically, you’re on the set of Wheel of Fortune; that’s just where you’re hanging out before you go on to the Jeopardy set. So that was super cool.

Then you go on to the Alex Trebek stage, the Jeopardy! set. It’s something that I’ve seen on TV so many times. And still, it like blew me away, on TV, it almost looks bigger. It’s actually a pretty confined area when you’re there. So we’re sitting in the audience — we’re the only audience because of the COVID rules — and they pick contestants out of the hat to determine who’s going to go up against the champion.

I was sitting there, we did a couple of practice rounds. And I’d never been on TV or on cameras before. I was pretty nervous. I was thinking maybe it’d be nice if I got selected later on, but I didn’t get selected for the first one. But then the second one, they called my name. And I like, alright, “this is it.”

The person whose name gets pulled from the hat first, they get to pick which podium they want. So I just got assigned to the middle podium, which, I guess was a good thing, because last week, all of the winners were standing at the middle podium.

With Laura Sikes, her higher education as a historian prepared her as well. You’re from an engineering background, did that help at all? You did win a game, but how did you feel about your performance?

I don’t really think that my educational background (as an engineer) had much to do with it. My primary education… I think that helped a lot. That’s where I learned most of what I know. Reading and class. I think that’s one of the things that’s always helped me and why I felt like I would be good: I tend to retain facts just even if I hear them once, or read it somewhere, once. And so I think that’s what really came in handy. I don’t know that the engineering part did. There weren’t very many engineering-specific questions naturally.

My performance, so when I came in, having played along, for so many episodes, I felt like I was going do like really well, right, because the way I used to practice was that I would try to shout out the answer before the contestants got it on TV. And I’d like to take down scores, and see how I was doing against the other contestants. In retrospect, maybe I should have practiced buzzing in instead of shouting out.

As soon as like I successfully buzzed in, (I answered) a bit too early; you’re supposed to wait for Ken to call on you. It was just such a force of habit that I would just shout out the answer. So that was a little bit disconcerting initially.

They get half a million people applying and it’s such a small number. It’s a very select group of contestants, so you’re not going to get as many questions as you think you are. I thought I’d answer like 20, 30 questions per episode… I didn’t buzz in that many times successful anyway.

I was definitely off to a slow start. And by the end of Double Jeopardy!, I was pretty significantly behind. We all had really decent totals, and I think it was the highest combined score in that season to that point. But I was behind — think I had $12,500 and the leader, she had, around $20,000 — (but) I was just in range. So I knew that I was going to go all in, I wasn’t going to aim for a second. Even if (I had) the slightest chance of getting first, I was going to put it all on the line. And I did.

The Napoleon question…It was really lucky that that was the question because I had read a book about (it) a couple of years ago… I was so shocked when I knew I got the question. I didn’t know how good a chance I had that, like, they weren’t also going to get it.

What do you think is going to be the biggest thing or memory you take away from this?

I’m honestly like, everyone I met there was so great. There’s a surprising amount of camaraderie that you feel. Obviously, when you’re sitting there in the audience box with all the other contestants, you know that as soon as you get up on stage with them, you want to beat them, right? You want to get every question and dominate… But while you’re in the audience box and after the taping, they’re all such nice people, all such smart people, and they’re exactly the kind of people who I see at pub trivia. So that was really cool. And Ken, I thought did a really good job. I’d like to see him as the permanent host.

Anything else I might have missed?

I’m just I’d encourage everyone to take the test because you never know when you’re going to get your chance. And it really is a super cool experience. And anyone who’s a real fan of the show, definitely should.