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Alumni in University Challenge studio

A team of our own distinguished alumni and academics will be taking on rival university teams on this year’s BBC University Challenge Christmas Special.

Chaired by Jeremy Paxman and returning to BBC Two and iPlayer, long-running British quiz show University Challenge returns for a Christmas Special series featuring 56 distinguished alumni in teams representing 14 universities. All contestants are hoping they’ve retained at least some of what their alma maters once taught them, as they compete for the coveted champion's title. 
Contestants on this year’s show include BBC News presenter Reeta Chakrabarti, Welsh actress actor Sian Reese-Williams, stand-up comedian Ivo Graham, and gold medal-winning paracyclist Neil Fachie. 
Each team will compete in one of seven first round matches, after which the four teams with the highest winning scores will face each other in two semi-finals. The winners of each of those ties will then face each other for the series crown. 

Chris Terrill

Our team of four is captained by Chris Terrill (Geography and Anthropology, Collingwood College, 1972-75), who was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science in 2018. Chris’ personal mantra is ‘seize the day’; he began his career as a teacher, then became a producer for the BBC World Service specialising in African affairs. After five years in radio, he joined BBC television as a documentary producer, where he was awarded an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism for his film “Ape Trade”. He has spent time in war torn and famine ravaged parts of Africa and has worked with the International Disaster Institute and the UN in Geneva. At 55 years old, he successfully completed the Royal Marine Commando training, an experience that he has shared in his documentary ‘The 55-Year-Old Commando’.   

Dr Emma Chapman

Chris is joined by Dr Emma Chapman (Theoretical Physics, Josephine Butler College, 2006-2010), who is a Royal Society research fellow based at the University of Nottingham. She is among the world's leading researchers in search of the first stars to light up our Universe, 13 billion years ago. Emma released her first popular science book in 2020, ‘First Light’, and she has been the recipient of multiple commendations and prizes, including the Royal Society Athena Medal. Emma is a respected public commentator on astrophysical matters and gender equality issues in the sciences, regularly speaking at public events and through the media.  

Professor Simon Parson

Also on the team is Professor Simon Parson (Zoology, Van Mildert College, 1984-87). He is the Lead for Anatomy at the University of Aberdeen and has been awarded the Regius Chair of Anatomy. He is also President of the Anatomical Society. His research is focussed on the fatal childhood motor neurone disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He has a special interest in previously under described non-neuronal symptoms and pathologies and is working to improve outcomes for affected children. Simon is Visiting Professor at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and a Fellow of the Anatomical Society and the Royal Society of Biology.  

Professor Gillian Foulger

Completing the team is Professor Gillian Foulger (Geophysics, Graduate Society (now Ustinov College), MSc 1976, PhD 1985) Professor Emerita of Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham University and Professorial Fellow of St Chad's College. Gillian plays a major role in coordinating the global debate in the category of Earth Science, on whether or not deep mantle thermal plumes exist and create “hot spot” volcanism. She is a Fellow of the Icelandic National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Geological Society of America, and a member of the American Geophysical Union and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. 

Between them a wealth of knowledge and well equipped to represent us – they are scheduled to meet the University of York in the third round of the series.  
All that remains is to wish them the very best of luck. 

Read more about the University Challenge Christmas Special Series