24-year-old biochemist Camille Schrier was crowned the new Miss Virginia recently, after showcasing her talents onstage in the form of a science experiment.

Virginia beauty pageant contestant Camille Schrier showed a rather unusual talent for these kinds of shows

Image credits: John Herzog / Miss Virginia

While the usual ‘talents’ in these pageants often amount to singing a song or pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Ms. Schrier stepped out in lab coat and goggles to wow the judges with a demonstration of the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide.

After carefully mixing a solution of chemicals into beakers, Schrier’s experiment concluded with an explosion of blue and orange foam, which is known as the “Elephant Toothpaste” reaction.

Image credits: Rick Myers / Miss Virginia

Ms. Schrier said that it was the recent overhaul to the competition, which now places greater value on true talents and social impact over appearance, that encouraged her to enter the pageant circuit again.

“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,” she told IFLScience.

“I am more than Miss Virginia. I am Miss Biochemist, Miss Systems Biologist, Miss Future PharmD looking toward a pharmaceutical industry career.”

Image credits: Rick Myers / Miss Virginia

Check out the video of Ms. Schrier’s experiment in action below

She won not only the crowd but also the crown

Image credits: Camille Schrier

Rather than the patronizing swimsuit competition, competitors in Miss America 2.0 will now spend more time highlighting their achievements and goals. Dress codes have moved on from the traditional evening gowns, with candidates allowed to choose clothing that expresses who they really are.

According to its website, Miss America now aims to be more inclusive to women rather than fitting into predefined stereotypes.

Image credits: John Herzog / Miss Virginia

“We are no longer a pageant. Miss America will represent a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent, and empowerment” said Gretchen Carlson, Chair of the Board of Trustees.

“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.”

Image credits: Camille Schrier

Ms. Schrier, who will now represent Virginia in the nationwide competition, will be a strong candidate for the first ‘Miss America 2.0.’ She has dual Bachelor of Science degrees from Virginia Tech in Biochemistry and Systems Biology, and is currently studying a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree at Virginia Commonwealth University.

She chose to do the science experiment as her talent because she wants to get others excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.

Image credits: Camille Schrier

“I’m trying to be like Bill Nye,” she said in a university blog. “That’s what I’m going for. I want to get kids excited, but I don’t want it to be boring.”

Image credits: Camille Schrier

This kind of awareness and encouragement for girls to get into science and engineering is important because the field is still dominated by men. Currently, 81% of the degrees earned in engineering in the U.S. go to males, despite girls and boys having no significant difference in their abilities in mathematics and science.

So it seems that Ms. Schrier’s victory was also a victory for science. Let’s hope it inspires many young girls to follow in her footsteps and be inspired to challenge themselves at the highest levels of scientific research!

Here’s what people had to say about Camille Schrier’s win