A 24-year-old PhD candidate was crowned Miss Virginia 2019 after she chucked aside pageant norms and instead donned a lab coat and safety glasses to perform the “catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide” during the talent portion of the competition.
Camille Schrier has dual Bachelor of Science degrees from Virginia Tech in Biochemistry and Systems Biology and is currently studying to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. Turning the talent portion into a science experiment was a way for her to get others excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, she said in a university blog post.
“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,” said Schrier in a statement emailed to IFLScience. “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.”
The catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide is a science experiment many grade school kids might recall. Giant spurts of foam occur when potassium iodide (Kl) is added to a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and dish soap. (See the instructions for yourself here.) The process is similar to the one that occurs when applying hydrogen peroxide to a wound and white bubbling foam spurts out. The process is due to catalase, an enzyme that is found in blood and attacks the applied hydrogen peroxide, putting off oxygen in the form of white, gurgling bubbles.
Schrier was one of 24 contestants at the 2019 statewide competition and won more than $21,000 of $75,000 in scholarship money. For the next year, she will tour the state and share her platform of STEM awareness and drug safety and abuse prevention.
“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,” she said.
She will now go on to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia at the Miss America Pageant later this year.