Forget dancing or singing to woo beauty pageant judges, chemistry is what wins them over.
That was the case for Camille Schrier, a biochemist who won the Miss Virginia pageant in late June. The doctorate of pharmacy student at Virginia Commonwealth University had put her pageant career on hold as she pursued a degree.
That turned out to be a smart decision. The winning talent that will see her represent the state in the Miss America contest was a chemistry experiment where she demonstrated the rapid decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. Known as elephant's toothpaste because it produces a voluminous amount of foam, it is a popular experiment in schools and was one that impressed the judges.
Schrier told reporters that a reboot by the Miss America Organization last year to weigh social impact initiatives over appearance drew her back into the pageant circuit. Donning a white lab coat, safety goggles, and gloves, Schrier got to work mixing chemicals to yield the colorful reaction. She walked away with around $20,000 which she said will go to fund graduate school.
Miss America got an Overhaul Last June
Last June, the Miss America Organization overhauled its practices to reflect more than just beauty. The beauty contest is no longer called a pageant but rather a competition with contestants now referred to as candidates.
Instead of a swimsuit competition, competitors take part in interactive sessions with judges to highlight their achievements and goals. Evening gowns aren't a requirement. Candidates are allowed to choose clothing that expresses who they are. The idea is to be more inclusive to women rather than fitting into predefined stereotypes. Miss America 2.0 emphasizes talents over looks.
“We are no longer a pageant. Miss America will represent a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent, and empowerment” Gretchen Carlson, Chair of the Board of Trustees said in an announcement last June. ”We’re experiencing a cultural revolution in our country with women finding the courage to stand up and have their voices heard on many issues. Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement.”
Females Still Underrepresented in Science
Schrier's win is important for females considering a degree in science and engineering. As it stands, the field is still dominated by males with 81% of the degrees earned in engineering in the U.S. going to men. Just 19% of women walk away with an engineering degree. For computer science, its 82% male and 18% female while 61% of physic degrees are earned by men and 19% by women.