Donning her white lab coat, Miss Virginia contestant Camille Schrier captivated the audience, and it turns out, millions across the nation and around the world with an explosive and colorful chemistry demonstration during the talent portion of the competition. A short time later, she was crowned Miss Virginia 2019 and next month, will compete in the Miss America 2020 Pageant.
When she first entered the Miss Virginia Pageant, her Mom asked what she planned to do for her talent. Camille thought for a minute. She didn’t sing or dance or perform any special tricks. She says those are all amazing talents to have, but just not abilities she possessed. What to do? She quickly landed on something that she discovered was her passion in the 8th grade. Science. A decade later, and with two degrees in biochemistry and systems biology from Virginia Tech University, she would perform a science experiment.
If you ask Camille, she’ll tell you her days experimenting with science really began in the kitchen as a young child. She loved to cook and bake, which she says is essentially a big chemistry experiment. She especially like working with yeast to make dough, which may explain why she made elephant toothpaste for her experiment on stage. Yeast is one of key catalysts used to break hydrogen peroxide down into water and oxygen, which are then mixed with soap to create the exploding foam.
Another reason for choosing the elephant toothpaste was to captivate the interest of young people in STEM, and especially girls. It’s one of the central themes she has emphasized as Miss Virginia. Camille is in the middle of visiting 72 schools across the State of Virginia, to promote STEM with students. She also is taking time to counsel kids on the important issue of drug safety. As someone pursuing her doctorate in pharmacy, this is another topic she is very passionate about making a difference.
“When we first heard of Camille’s story, we felt an instant STEM connection,” said Fiona Ginty, Technology Manager, Biosciences, at GE Research. “Through programs like Project Inspire, the GE Girls Club, and our annual Science Day for 4th graders, we share Camille’s passion and commitment to promoting STEM. We reached out on Twitter to congratulate her on becoming Miss Virginia and invited her to come see our labs in Niskayuna. We were thrilled when she said yes!”
Camille visited GE Research this week for a tour of GE’s labs and to participate in two STEM activities managed by GE volunteers locally. Ginty said, “The visit went beyond our highest hopes. We not only had an opportunity to show her around the campus, she took time to meet with the students involved with our GE Girls Club and Project Inspire program.” To read more about her visit, see Camille's Facebook post.
Yesterday I had the incredible opportunity to spend my day at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York. GE...Posted by Miss Virginia Camille Schrier on Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Camille visited with a dozen girls who are involved in the GE Girls Club for an afterschool meeting at Schenectady High School. She spent time sharing her story and listening to the girls share their own stories as well. Many members of the Club are alumni of the GE Girls Inc. Summer camp that GE hosts with RPI each summer for girls entering the 8th grade. In fact, it was because so many wanted to continue their STEM experience that GE decided to form the GE Girls Club. The Club, which includes middle school and high school students from the Schenectady and Troy school districts, meet once a month.
Following the afterschool meeting with the GE Girls Club, Camille delivered the keynote address to our 14 high school students from Schenectady High School who completed the fall Project Inspire program. Inspire is a science and technology enrichment program hosted by a group of volunteer scientists at GE Research to expose intercity students to exciting cutting-edge technology that may inspire them to pursue a career in science or technology. The program is made up of three elements: technical concepts, non-technical concepts (communication skills), and a scientist mentor. During the 9- week program, students learn about natural sciences, engineering and computer science. The program just completed its 11th year.
Jeannette Roberts, a lead scientist in the Biosciences group at GE Research who leads the program said, “The stars must have been aligned on the timing. When we learned Camille would be visiting on Monday, November 18th, we realized that was the same day we would be holding the graduation ceremony for this year’s Inspire class. We were thrilled when Camille agreed to be our keynote speaker. It made for an experience that I and most importantly, our 2019 Inspire class, will not forget.”
Ginty concluded, “When people think of pageants, it’s easy to fall back on the stereotypical view of them being a beauty contest. But as Camille noted a few times during visit, that’s not at all what pageants like Miss Virginia or Miss America are like today. Putting on her lab coat, she has brought STEM to pageantry and pageantry to STEM.”