Chandrayaan-2 Team Member Makes Final Of UK’s Toughest TV Quiz

Kolkata graduate Sourajit Debnath’s team has made it to the final of ‘toughest’ TV quiz in UK


A computational science graduate from Kolkata has answered a series of complex questions as part of his university’s team to make it to the last leg of what is among television’s “toughest” quiz tournaments in the UK.

Sourajit Debnath, 31, will join his four-member Imperial College London team as they go head-to-head with University College London (UCL) in the BBC’s ‘University Challenge’ grand final to be telecast on Monday.

In clips being aired from the show this week, Debnath can be seen dressed in a red and black kurta dominating a set of bonus questions on BAFTA-winning video games.

“I feel honoured to have been given a chance to be a part of the history of this long-running British institution,” said Mr Debnath.

“Imperial’s team is unusually well-rounded this year and each teammate has their own selection of niches, or specialisms to borrow from quiz parlance. All other things being equal, I’m responsible for covering maths, physics, and general science, along with pop culture on the humanities side,” he shared.

Mr Debnath has completed a Master’s in Applied Computational Science and Engineering at the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, a degree he chose to pivot to a career in computational science.

In India, he was a space scientist at U.R. Rao Space Centre, the spacecraft-making arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), where he worked on the 2019 Indian lunar lander/rover mission Chandrayaan-2, among other spacecraft.

After his graduation from Imperial College London, he has joined an Imperial start-up focused on geophysics algorithms operating out of the university’s Royal School of Mines.

“The UK is a friendly and welcoming country for students, but it’s quite difficult to get funding for doctoral programmes as overseas citizens,” he said, when asked about Britain as a higher education destination for Indian students.

Described by the BBC as “TV’s toughest quiz team tournament”, ‘University Challenge’ is hosted by British Indian broadcaster Amol Rajan and attracts teams of students representing the top universities from across the UK to be crowned quiz champions.

In the semi-final against the University of Manchester last week, Mr Debnath answered several challenging questions including one with an Indian touch that sought the name of the ingredient of panch phoron (five-spice blend) from this description: “the small seed like fruits of a plant in the parsley family known in Hindi as Jeera”? The answer, cumin, was probably one of the easiest the Bengali student has faced so far in the tough competition.

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