A 24-year-old biochemist won the Miss Virginia pageant by performing a science experiment onstage as her talent
The talent portion of beauty pageants can be incredibly depressing. A sequin-clad beauty warbles through “I Hope You Dance” or adequately taps around or kind of plays the violin. They’re all fine but never spectacular. It almost seems more useless than the bathing suit portion.
That changed on June 22. Camille Schrier, who went on to win the title of Miss Virginia, did something different—she demonstrated a chemical reaction.
Schrier walked on stage in a lab coat and goggles and showed the audience how the “elephant toothpaste” reaction works. In this chemical reaction, a stream of foam is caused by the rapid decomposition of hydrogen using potassium iodide as a catalyst. It’s an easy experiment that many children do in school, but Schrier’s bringing science to the stage was inspired.
“[For] me to come out there and take a risk and do a science demonstration was very different,” she said. “As someone who is breaking the boundaries and breaking stereotypes for what talent looks like at Miss America, I wanted to be a little out of the box, and it really worked out.”
Schrier competed in pageants as a teenager, but she decided to leave pageant life to attend Virginia Tech. She graduated summa cum laude in 2018 with degrees in biochemistry and systems technology. She is currently a PharmD student at Virginia Commonwealth University but plans to take a year off to fulfill her obligations as Miss Virginia.
As Miss Virginia, Schrier’s goals are to raise awareness about drug abuse and to promote drug safety. She wants to be an advocate and educator—especially regarding the opioid crisis. She also wants to inspire young women to get into STEM fields, which are traditionally male-dominated. Often, women are discouraged from entering STEM due to factors like discrimination and lack of support.
However, over 200,000 women graduated from STEM fields in 2016 in comparison with just over 140,000 in 2009—so it looks like things are headed in a positive direction.