Mayim Bialik hosts the 'Jeopardy! National College Championship'

NEW YORK -- They're calling it "February Frenzy," and the "Jeopardy! National College Championship" begins Tuesday on this ABC station.

Roughly 26,000 college students at 4,000 schools applied to be in the tournament, and just 36 made the cut to play for a top prize of $250,000.

The tournament requires an equally smart host to keep the games going, and this series is hosted by one of the brainiest people in all of show business -- Mayim Bialik, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.

"I credit a lot of my comfort, which I'm still working towards on 'Jeopardy!', with being a science educator," she said. "And I've been raised to present. I started acting at 11. I'm 46, so for most of my life, I've learned how to speak and articulate. Also, I grew up in a house where you had to think fast and speak fast if you wanted to be heard."

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Bialik first made her mark as a child playing Bette Midler's character as a girl in "Beaches." She was "Blossom" in primetime a few years later and grew up in the public eye while remaining very down to earth.

"As a grandchild of immigrants, it's pretty clear going to college, doing your chores, learning to sew and clean, was very important as well," she said.

Who else can claim to play a neuroscientist on TV in "The Big Bang Theory" and actually be a scientist for real? Yet, Bialik remains always humble.

"I never thought I was the smartest person in the room," she said.

She will admit that her advanced college degree and her show business background combine to make her ideal to host the "Jeopardy! National College Championship."

"Yeah, I think it's those sort of skills, which I hope make me able to kind of blend into the podium," she said. "So that it's really about our contestants."

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The college tournament features categories geared to the students, like, "That's Quite A Dorm Room," and "These Words Are Younger Than You Are."

"There are definitely categories that reference their age and kind of the decades that they were born in and things like that," Bialik said. "So that's been really fun."

Thinking on her feet is key to taping five episodes of the game in a single day.

"It's a lot of skill building," she said. "If anything, I feel 'Jeopardy!' is keeping my brain young."

The tournament starts at 8 p.m. Tuesday on this ABC station.
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