24-year-old PhD candidate Camille Schrier has been crowned Miss America after she impressed the judges with a chemistry experiment for the talent portion of the competition. She had already won Miss Virginia with this approach, and it seems her skills in science communications have paid off.
Schrier won a $50,000 scholarship and will be advocating for Mind Your Meds – a drug safety and prevention program – as part of her one-year tenure as Miss America.
“Every day, more than 130 Americans die of an opioid overdose and every eight minutes a caregiver makes a medication error that impacts a child. It’s time to do more about drug safety and abuse prevention,” Schrier said in an email to IFLScience after getting crowned Miss Virginia.
The Miss America contest has changed over the last few years, dropping the outdated swimwear segment and focusing on the passion, intelligence, and talent of the contestants.
“The evolution of the Miss America competition, which reflects greater inclusiveness, and an opportunity to make a difference and win scholarships inspired me to step forward this year and compete,” Schrier told IFLScience after getting crowned Miss Virginia.
“I am more than Miss Virginia. I am Miss Biochemist, Miss Systems Biologist, Miss Future PharmD looking toward a pharmaceutical industry career. Now was the time for me to create a mind shift about the concept of talent by bringing my passion for STEM to the stage. To me, talent is not a passion alone, but also a skill which is perfected over years of learning.”
Her experiment is the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. When hydrogen peroxide is used with catalase, foam forms as hydrogen peroxide breaks down into its fundamental components: oxygen and water.
The reaction can be made even more spectacular with a little help of potassium iodide as the catalyst (which makes the reaction faster), dishwasher soap to trap the oxygen, and a more concentrated solution of hydrogen peroxide than what’s commercially available in general stores.
When those are mixed in a conical flask, what we get is a spectacular eruption of colorful foam, a little bit of heat, and in the case of Camille Schrier, the crown of Miss America.
[H/T: BBC News]