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"Final Answer" Pays Off Big Time for Former DHS Fellow

Nov. 15, 2006

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) has its own "million dollar man"—well, almost.

Ogi Ogas, a 2003 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fellow and a graduate of Loyola College in Baltimore, Md., recently made it all the way to the million dollar question on ABC’s "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" television show. Ogas was initially stumped on the $100,000 question and had to phone a friend. But after responding with the correct answer, he moved right on up to the $500,000 level with two lifelines to go.

Final Answer Pays Off Big Time for Former DHS Fellow

Pictured L to R: Ogi Ogas, a 2003 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fellow, recently won $500,000 on the ABC television show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Ogas got stumped on the $1 million dollar question, so he decided to walk away with a check for $500,000. The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education administers the fellowship program on behalf of DHS.

A native of Annapolis, Md., Ogas is currently pursing a Ph.D. in cognitive and neural systems at Boston University, thanks to three years of support as a DHS fellow and a $10,000 one-year dissertation grant from the agency.

"I thought I could apply the ideas and techniques I learned in my doctoral program to the show to win money," Ogas said. "Specifically, my field of research—cognitive neuroscience—focuses on memory, search algorithms (useful for the "Phone-a-Friend" lifeline), human judgment (useful for interpreting the "Ask-the-Audience" lifeline) and priming techniques (ways the brain helps itself to recall information). In fact, my particular 'Millionaire' show presented an almost textbook opportunity for the application of my graduate school knowledge."

Ogas’ $1 million dollar question was: "Which of these ships was not one of the three taken over by colonists during the Boston Tea Party? A.) Eleanor, B) Dartmouth, C) Beaver or D) William."

He was able to narrow down his choices to either “A” or “D”, but after utilizing all his lifelines and instead of risking the guaranteed $500,000 that he had already secured with the last correct answer, Ogas chose to walk away with $500,000. Had Ogas taken a chance on the $1 million dollar question and had answered it incorrectly, he would have fallen back to $25,000 in winnings… a chance Ogas didn’t want to take.

When Game Show Host Meredith Vieira revealed the correct answer to be "D," Ogas was upset he hadn't gone with his gut but was happy to walk away with a check for $500,000. Vieira said, "You know what Ogi, in our book it’s $500,000, but you are one in a million. You are fantastic!"

Ogas said the experience was one that only comes around "once-in-a-lifetime. I will remember the terror and exuberance of the perilous chair for the rest of my life."

The DHS Scholarship and Fellowship Program is designed to support, stimulate and tap into the intellectual capital in academia to address current and future homeland security challenges, while at the same time educating and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers dedicated to improving homeland security. ORISE administers the program on behalf of DHS.

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