University Challenge star Bobby Seagull has told how he was flattered to receive a flood of romantic proposals following the show, but admitted he would make a “terrible boyfriend”.
The Emmanuel College, Cambridge, student became a hit with viewers when he faced Wolfson College’s Eric Monkman in the BBC contest’s semi-final this year, but the pair have now become close friends and colleagues.
This month they will host their own radio show, where they will quiz Stephen Fry about the value in becoming a polymath (an expert in multiple subjects).
But while Monkman has made it clear that he is in a committed long-distance relationship, Seagull has become inundated with social media attention.
He told the Press Association: “After University Challenge a lot of people tried to message me through Facebook and Twitter and it was very flattering … they said I was really positive and they loved my personality.
“But I am always juggling lots of different things at the same time, so I think I would be a terrible boyfriend.
“For now I am a bit too busy to be a good dater, but maybe when everything dies down I will have time to date again.”
Instead, the London-based academic hopes his time on University Challenge will help encourage a nationwide passion for learning maths.
Currently studying a doctorate in mathematics education, he said: “In the UK there is a big phobia around mathematics and it has the worst reputation of all school subjects.
“I want to do a bit of a Jamie Oliver with it. Throughout his campaigning for healthy eating his schools, his raison d’etre was using his positive personality and celebrity chef status to push that message.
“I would like to think that I can use my little 15 minutes of attention to boost the importance of mathematics in schools.”
Following his victory over Seagull in the semi-final – but narrowly losing the tournament to Balliol College, Oxford – Monkman is currently working as a financial journalist intern through the Marjorie Deane programme at The Economist magazine.
One week into the job, he said: “It has been a lot of fun – I thought it would be interesting to try writing things that get a larger audience.”
But while he astonished TV viewers with his answers to Jeremy Paxman’s quick-fire questions across all subjects, he confessed that he lacked the focus to become a real polymath.
“I haven’t achieved anything significant in more than one field,” he said. “In fact, because I am so young, I haven’t really achieved something of distinction even in one.
“A difficulty throughout my life has been finding one subject to focus on, because I am very curious and when I study in one subject I often enjoy looking into another.
“Sports isn’t my thing, but if there is something well-written about why some techniques help people run further, or how the economics of sport work, then I will probably be interested in it.”
Monkman and Seagull’s Polymathic Adventure airs on BBC Radio 4 at 8:30pm, August 21.