Geno L. White would like an instant nest egg for his first child, Geno Jr., who's due to arrive any second. Lindsey Malcom wants a new laptop and perhaps a little cash toward graduate school.
Both MIT seniors will be in New York for the next few days (Nov. 8-11) to compete on a special college edition of the ABC-TV program Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The shows will air on Channel 5 in Boston on December 19-20.
Mr. White and Ms. Malcom qualified by auditioning at the Cambridge Marriott in September. Both almost skipped the audition, which took place early on a Sunday morning.
"I didn't want to get out of bed," said Ms. Malcom, an earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences major who lives in New House 2. "Then I decided I'd better go and I begged my housemaster [Professor John M. Essigmann] to drive me."
Mr. White, an electrical engineering and computer science major, was overwhelmed with school work and reluctant to take a break for the audition. "Then I realized a chance like this comes along once in a lifetime," he said. "You'd better grab it."
The auditions consisted of a 15-minute written exam and videotaped interview. A month after the audition, both were invited to come to New York to compete on the show. Their full MIT schedules limited preparation to watching the show and keeping abreast of current events. "I need to practice for the fast finger question," said Mr. White, referring to an early round in which contestants compete against the clock to advance.
Contestants choose backup supporters with whom they may confer when stumped, referred to as "lifelines."
Mr. White will rely on a Chocolate City brother, senior Larry L. Stevens, and Seema M. Awatramani, also a senior, both of whom are majoring in chemical engineering. "They're both so full of random knowledge that makes no sense to have, except for situations like this," Mr. White said.
Ms. Malcom's lifelines will include her advisor, Professor Richard P. Binzel; several MIT students; and her mother, Dr. Shirley Malcom, director for education and human resources for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Mom knows everything," said Ms. Malcom, whose family lives in Clarksville, MD.
She plans to proceed cautiously, following her instincts as the stakes increase. "I'll be happy if I get $32,000," she said. "I won't risk it all."
Mr. White is more ambitious. "On the outside, my goal is to get as high as I can without embarrassing myself," he said. "My inner self says I won't stop until I see the million."
Gino Jr.'s mother, Jonetta Crockett, is a senior at Ohio State majoring in biology. She was Mr. White's high school sweetheart.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 8, 2000.