Credit: Alvin Leong

Strathclyde student rises to University Challenge

Credit: Alvin Leong

Rachael Bunyan

Alasdair Logan, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student at Strathclyde University, led his team to victory with a stunning performance against Imperial College London on University Challenge last week.

Logan, 20, from Motherwell, brought his team back from being 60 points behind by answering 16 questions correctly on topics ranging from art, literature and botany.

He scored 110 of his team’s total of 145 points, and completed the victory by answering three bonus questions on the 2016 European football championships.

Logan felt “undoubted satisfaction in eliminating a big name like Imperial”, especially since they had rejected his application to study there four years ago.

Jeremy Paxman, the show’s presenter, joked that Strathclyde had seemed to be “asleep in the first half”.

Even Logan had his doubts, confessing: “I was thinking we’d be heading home early and I was worried about a bad defeat.”

“Maybe as captain I should have prepared some inspiring words,” he joked. Even without those, the team managed to regain their focus and comeback at Imperial.

For Logan, the programme itself – “the questions, the studio environment and Jeremy Paxman” – was as much of an opponent as Imperial.

The team captain began watching University Challenge 10 years ago when he could “answer almost no questions”. But a few years ago, Logan grew in confidence after realising he “was getting better, and started thinking about applying”.

Logan’s knowledge of literature and art comes from his “pleasure from reading and looking at paintings.” He told the Glasgow Guardian: “It’s easy to answer questions on books you’ve read and operas you’ve seen – there’s no real need for revision”.

He managed to answer a botany question despite confessing that he’s “no botanist”. Instead, he had happened to watch a recent episode of “The Ascent of Man” in which the 19th century Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel, was mentioned.

Had the Strathclyde team used a particular revision strategy? Not really, said Logan, since “revising is almost impossible considering the breadth of questions”. The team did, however, divide topics that usually come up among the team. Despite this strategy, Logan admits that “almost every question we answered came from incidental knowledge picked up over the years”.

Logan has acquired a degree of celebrity status since the victory, and the Scottish Sun “came up with a few sobriquets”. “Thankfully”, he says, “they don’t seem to be catching on”.

Some on social media seem in awe of him, with one fan tweeting: “Logan, wherever you are, you are an absolute machine”.

Logan and his teammates James Flannigan, Paul Dijkmanm and Ian Brown will return to University Challenge in the coming weeks.


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