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VCU pharmacy student Camille Schrier crowned Miss America 2020

Schrier, who was named Miss Virginia in June, competed on a platform that highlighted STEM education and drug safety.

RVAHub Staff

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With a message of drug safety and a burst of colorful foam, Virginia Commonwealth University pharmacy student Camille Schrier wowed the judges and won Miss America.

Her talent — a dramatic science demonstration of the catalytic conversion of hydrogen peroxide that shot bursts of colored foam high into the air — launched her over many of the other finalists, who showed off more traditional skills such as dancing and ballad singing.

The Virginia Tech graduate has degrees in biochemistry and systems biology and is pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy at the VCU School of Pharmacy. Her campaign initiative focused on educating people on the dangers of misusing medications including opioids.

“I am so proud to break stereotypes about who Miss America can be,” she told the judges.

Schrier’s science demonstration had already won the preliminary talent competition — and $2,000 — earlier in the week.

“We need to show that Miss America can be a scientist and that a scientist can be Miss America,” Schrier said during the interview round of the competition Thursday night in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Schrier won the right to compete by winning the title of Miss Virginia in June with the help of her science-related talent exhibition. That win and the video of her demonstration led millions around the world to see her story on TV news reports, social media and websites.

“I’m trying to be like Bill Nye [the science guy],” she told VCU News this summer, explaining her approach. “That’s what I’m going for. I want to get kids excited, but I don’t want it to be boring.”

Since her June win, Schrier has taken a year off from her studies at VCU to tour the state and share her campaign platform of STEM awareness and drug safety. She has spoken about science and medication to hundreds of schoolchildren and on national TV shows, including “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and “CBS This Morning.”

Scientists have taken notice. In November, General Electric Co. invited her to speak at its laboratories in New York. “From one scientist to another, you’re doing us women in STEM proud and inspiring a whole new generation of female scientists,” Fiona Ginty of GE Research told Schrier in a video inviting her to the labs.

Camille Schrier on stage at the 2019 Miss Virginia competition.
Schrier donned a lab coat and safety goggles last summer and turned the talent portion of the Miss Virginia competition into a science experiment. She repeated the experiment Thursday to win the Miss America competition. (Photo courtesy of Miss Virginia Organization)

Schrier, a Pennsylvania native, said she was an athletic kid, never a “girly-girl.” She attributes her love of science and nature to an eighth-grade science class. When she was 14, she became interested in pageants as a creative outlet.

The process taught her more than she expected, she said. “It taught me a lot about being professional … in terms of just being able to prepare a resume, go into an interview confidently and how to prepare for something like that.”

Schrier participated in pageants from age 14 until she started college four years later. She graduated cum laude from Virginia Tech in 2018 with degrees in biochemistry and systems biology. She entered VCU’s Doctor of Pharmacy program last year.

Lauren Caldas, Pharm.D., an assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy, taught Schrier in a challenging first-year pharmacy foundations course.

“In a class where a lot of students can become very stressed, she shined and was just a wonderful person to be around,” Caldas said. “She was always an example of professionalism.”

Around the time Schrier started pharmacy school, she learned that the Miss America competition had been revamped — eliminating the swimsuit competition and emphasizing professionalism and social impact. That, and the possibility of scholarships, reignited her interest. The Miss America organization says it is the nation’s top provider of scholarships for young women.

Building on her pharmacy education, Schrier decided she would make her platform “Mind Your Meds: Drug Safety and Abuse Prevention from Pediatrics to Geriatrics,” focusing on drug safety and abuse prevention. Since Schrier did not have much performing experience, she realized she would have to find an entertaining way to highlight her talents.

After looking online for science experiments for kids, she came across an experiment sometimes called “elephant toothpaste” that demonstrates the rapid decomposition of hydrogen peroxide using potassium iodide as a catalyst. The result is a dramatic burst of foam.

She acquired some industrial-strength hydrogen peroxide and practiced the experiment in the driveway of her apartment complex, adding food coloring to the foam. When she tried it at an outdoor car wash, the foam shot out so violently it hit the ceiling, staining it. (She scrubbed it clean with bleach.)

We need to show that Miss America can be a scientist and a scientist can be Miss America.

Her science experiment helped her win a regional title, Miss Dominion, making her eligible for the Miss Virginia competition. Because the Miss Virginia competition was held in a large space, she made her experiment bigger, with larger flasks and even more dramatic jets of brightly colored foam. She won the competition’s preliminary talent award.

“I expected to hear some feedback saying that my talent wasn’t really a talent,” Schrier said. “But I will tell you, I was overwhelmed with messages saying how cool my talent was, how refreshing it was and how everyone was impressed that I was able to tie education and science into something that was also entertaining.”

Schrier also has a personal reason for her interest in medical science. She is living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic condition that affects body tissue, joints and blood vessels. She was diagnosed when she was 11.

“It definitely got me interested in science and medicine because there’s no treatment for this right now,” Schrier said. “There was a lot of genetic information regarding EDS and genetics was something I was always really interested in. This was a further interest, in terms of genetics, for me to look at and think about how that could help us diagnose people.”

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Crime

Richmond Police, Mayor Stoney apologize after tear gas deployed before curfew on protesters

Protesters took to the streets of Richmond again Monday night and were met with a forceful response and the deployment of tear gas by Richmond Police – an action for which the department and Mayor Stoney later apologized.

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Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Richmond again Monday afternoon and evening to speak out after the death of George Floyd. The group organized near both the Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart Monuments on Monument Avenue and remained mainly peaceful until police approached demonstrators at the Lee statue and deployed tear gas, as can be seen below from the below Twitter video from VPM.

Around the same time, reports began coming in that protesters at the Stuart monument were attempting to bring it down. A young demonstrator scaled the base of the statue and took what appeared to be a hack saw to the leg of the monument’s horse in an effort to bring it down. Police responded by calling on protesters to stand down, citing the weight of the monuments and their potential to crush bystanders.

Richmond Police and Mayor Levar Stoney later apologized for the deployment of tear gas on peaceful protesters – well below the 8:00 PM curfew – saying it was uncalled for and inviting protesters to City Hall at noon Tuesday to “apologize in person.” For its part, RPD said the officers involved had been “removed from the field” and would be subject to disciplinary action.

The protesters then continued marching down Franklin Street, then W. Broad Street, where things fizzled out around 10:30 PM near 14th Street.

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Downtown

PHOTOS: Protests continue for third day around Richmond, tear gas deployed as marchers ignore 8PM curfew

Hundreds of protesters rallied at sites around town Sunday as the third day of protests in response to the death of George Floyd took place in Richmond.

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Hundreds of protesters rallied at sites around town Sunday as the third day of protests in response to the death of George Floyd took place in Richmond. Protesters gathered at peaceful rallies on Brown’s Island and at the 17th Street Farmers Market downtown on Sunday morning.

Later in the day, another group formed at the Lee and Jackson monuments on Monument Avenue in the Fan. As dusk approached, the group made their way east on Franklin Street, turning onto W. Grace Street and then Broad Street near City Hall and Children’s Hospital at VCU.

An 8:00 PM curfew put in place by Mayor Levar Stoney did not deter most protesters, who continued marching and chanting until Richmond Police deployed tear gas and pepper spray into the crowd. Slowly, over the course of an hour, protesters dispersed.

Many businesses along W. Broad Street from Arthur Ashe Boulevard to the Arts District, already left cleaning up broken glass and graffiti Sunday morning from Saturday night’s protests, were left on edge, though there were far fewer reports of property damage Sunday.  Many of the businesses affected were small or minority-owned. By Sunday, many showed their support for the protests, spray painting “Black Lives Matter” or “Small/Minority-Owned” on their window coverings to both show solidarity and deter further damage.

Photographer Dave Parrish caught much of the Fan/Downtown protest Sunday afternoon and files these photos.

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Community

Science on Tap is Going Viral

Science Museum of Virginia is offering its online Happy Hour version of their super popular adults-only program.

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Science on Tap events are among the most popular the Science Museum of Virginia offers, but current conditions make an in-person jam-packed night of kid-free science fun a no-no right now. Museum staff are not ready to bid adieu to the series just because the Museum is currently closed to the public, so Science on Tap is going digital. (Think virtual SNL with science nerds.)

It is not only the platform that is going viral: staff are going to take a shot at all things virus related, hence the event name Science on Tap: Going Viral.

The Museum’s favorite historian and past Science on Tap speaker, Jim Blow, is back by popular demand for his typically risqué talk, this time tackling some of the worst “cures” in history. Museum Scientist Dr. Jeremy Hoffman will host trivia about living in a corona world (please re-read that while singing “Material Girl”). In addition, the Dome tag team of astronomer Justin Bartel and content producer Prabir Mehta will take guests on a cosmic journey to learn how things spread in space.

Just because it is on Zoom this time does not mean the rules change: as with the in-person events, the content will be aimed at an adult audience and is not kid friendly.

When:
Thursday, May 28, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Who:
Curious-minded adults are invited to join the Museum from home for this happy hour packed with science fun. Guests are welcome to pour themselves a cocktail, reminded to brush their hair because they will be on screen and, for the love of all things science, highly encouraged to put on pants before joining.

Science on Tap is presented by WestRock.

How:
Guests should register on the Museum’s website before noon on May 28. They will be emailed the link to access the Zoom program at 3 p.m. the day of the event. Space is limited to 300 spots. Guests should register per device access, not per person.

The Museum is not charging for this Science on Tap event. Guests who would like to help the Museum continue offering a variety of engaging programs are welcome to make a donation on the organization’s website or through PayPal.

Why:
Prior to closing to prevent the spread of the virus, the Museum was planning to host the next in-person Science on Tap in June. That is now cancelled, but giving adults the chance to participate in an event they may have previously attended at the Museum provides a sliver of normalcy during turbulent times.

In addition, providing a reminder about the importance of science in people’s lives has never been more important, and continues to be paramount to the Museum’s mission. Lastly, the program is packed with humor and science says laughing is good for your health.

Museum staff are working hard to keep people entertained and enriched while socially distant. Plus, this gives participants something to talk about on their next video chat other than “Tiger King.”

 

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