Biochemist from Richmond Wins the Miss Virginia Crown
In the cult-classic dark comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous (which is finally streaming, by the way), the contestants in the Sarah Rose Cosmetics Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant were a talented bunch of young ladies. During the talent portion of the competition one contestant tap danced, another performed a scene from Soylent Green, and a third sang a memorable version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" with an assist from Jesus himself. None of those cinematic contestants came close to Camille Schrier, though. When she took the stage during the talent portion of the competition at the Miss Virginia 2019 pageant, she blinded the judges with science.
The 24-year-old Richmond, Virginia, local showed off her smarts by donning a white lab coat and safety goggles and demonstrating the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. Since most of us have no idea what that is, she carefully explained each step of the chemical reaction she was creating by combining a catalyst (potassium iodide) with hydrogen peroxide. As Schrier mixed the chemicals in three large beakers, they erupted into colored foam. While her Bill Nye the Science Guy-inspired experiment is a far cry from baton twirling or tap dancing, the judges loved it. In fact, the judges were so impressed with Schrier that ended up being crowned Miss Virginia 2019.
Schrier is no newcomer to the pageant world. She has been competing since she was 14. Despite her years of experience, it was a challenge to come up with a way to show off her passion and talent for science with in the pageant format. "It took a little creativity for me to find a way that I could represent the talents I have in a way that was entertaining because sometimes people have this perception that science is boring," she told the BBC.
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It's no surprise that Schrier won the competition not in a gown but in her smartypants—she is truly an intelligent young woman. She discovered her love of science in a particularly inspiring eighth grade class, and then picked up her scientific prowess at Virginia Tech. There she earned degrees in both Biochemistry and Systems Biology, minored in Chemistry, and graduated Cum Laude. She won scholarships and research grants and was inducted into the Phi Sigma Biological Honor Society. Now she is earning a doctorate at the Virginia Commonwealth University, studying to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree.
While she always loved pageants, it wasn't until she learned that the Miss America pageant had been revamped, getting rid of the swimsuit competition in favor of professionalism and social impact, that she decided to try out for Miss Virginia. The scholarship money didn't hurt either. In addition to winning the title and crown, Schrier took home $22,000 in scholarship money to further her education.
During her year as Miss Virginia, Schrier wants to spend her time advocating for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for young people, especially girls who may have had no idea that science could be a pageant-worthy talent.
"I am more than Miss Virginia," Schrier said in a release, CNN reports. "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."
There's no doubt that the Commonwealth of Virginia found itself a true winner to represent them at the national Miss America competition in September.