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Miss America's Talent: Science

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The newest Miss America wears a crown and a lab coat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THERE SHE I,S MISS AMERICA")

BERT PARKS: (Singing) There she is, Miss America.

GREENE: Camille Schrier won the 99th Miss America competition last night. At the event, candidates showcase their talents - hers is not song or dance, it is science. Her demonstration last night echoed this performance over the summer at the Miss Virginia pageant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAMILLE SCHRIER: Catalysts are chemicals that are used to speed up reactions. And what we're about to watch is the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. But be careful - don't try this one at home.

GREENE: Camille Schrier is in pharmacy school and has dual degrees in biochemistry and systems biology. She spoke to NPR's daily science podcast Short Wave. She said she was inspired to get back into pageants last year when Miss America dropped the swimsuit competition.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SCHRIER: You know, I'm a confident person. But I don't feel the need to be judged on my physical appearance or especially my body in a swimsuit.

GREENE: She does not have a typical performing talent, so she played to her strengths. Her demonstration starts with her onstage at a kind of lab with three flasks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SCHRIER: The thing that I really wanted to do was get kids excited. And so that was what I designed this to look like.

GREENE: When she adds a catalyst to the hydrogen peroxide, the chemical reaction is really intense. Colorful foam erupts, shoots way up in the air and covers the whole table. Schrier says her nontraditional act still had the right recipe for Miss America, using public speaking skills to engage with children.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SCHRIER: I hoped in the back of my mind that I would be able to inspire, you know, one young girl that was like myself who loved science, to see that they could put on hair and makeup and wear beautiful dresses, but they could also do science and that those two were exclusive of each other because that's really who I am.

GREENE: Camille Schrier. She's winner of a $50,000 scholarship, and she is the new Miss America for the next year.

(SOUNDBITE OF IHF'S "AWAKE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.