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Hoffman Estates native takes on the world in ‘The Amazing Race’

Hoffman Estates native and food science grad student Amy DeJong teamed up with her lab mate for an experiment that took them out of the classroom and around the world: They’re competing on this season of “The Amazing Race.”

DeJong, 24, and Maya Warren, 29, are one of 11 pairs dashing around the globe for the $1 million prize in CBS’ Emmy-winning, long-running reality competition, which kicks off its 25th season at 7 p.m. Friday on WBBM-Channel 2. (CBS bumped the series from Sundays to Fridays. That means no more DVR screw ups thanks to football overruns.)

The 2008 Barrington High School graduate and her lab partner are getting their Ph.D.s in food science at University of Wisconsin in Madison.

“Most of the time that I’m awake, I’m in the lab with Maya,” DeJong said. “She researches ice cream and I research candy.”

Hence their team name: Sweet Scientists.

For the past five summers, DeJong has interned at Wrigley in Chicago, focusing on sweetener research for the candy company.

“About a year ago, the two of us were sitting in our office and she was talking about the race premiering soon,” DeJong recalled. “She was saying how it was always a dream of hers to go on the show.”

DeJong suggested they try out at an open casting call last year in Chicago. It took place around the same time as the Chicago marathon, which Warren ran.

DeJong and Warren go by the team name "Sweet Scientists." (Photo courtesy CBS)

DeJong and Warren go by the team name “Sweet Scientists.” (Photo courtesy CBS)

To prepare for their sprint around the world, they both did plenty of running. And weight lifting. And “Insanity” DVDs workouts.

“We tried to train a lot,” said DeJong, who also went rock climbing to help her become more comfortable with heights — a perennial problem for at least one Amazing Racer each season.

For the 25th installment of the Phil Keoghan-hosted series, teams start in New York City’s Times Square before jetting off to far-flung locations to compete in a series of challenges and to try to stay safe from elimination.

This season includes the race’s first-ever visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“I was excited to travel — that’s part of why I was so on board,” said DeJong, whose international journeys prior to the race were limited to a European trip she took with her mom after college.

“I’m still not sure about how I feel about being on television,” she said. “It was something I never saw myself doing.”

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