Kelly bringing science to the forefront as Miss Wayland
PLAINVIEW – When one thinks of a stereo-typical pageant girl, Sarah Kelly doesn’t exactly come to mind. In fact, she doesn’t even consider herself someone who fits that mold.
“My mom tried to put me in pageants as a kid and it just didn’t work out,” Kelly said. “I’m definitely not a girly girl.”
But something about the Miss Wayland pageant piqued her interest. It was different.
“I thought it was really cool because it is not your typical beauty pageant,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think going into it. I just kind of went into it open-mindedly and thought I’d do my best and just enjoy the experience. The best part of the whole pageant is they never told you that you couldn’t do something. They told you to be yourself. Be funny. Don’t be funny. Sing. Don’t sing. You want to blow something up on stage – go for it.”
And she did.
Kelly competed in the Miss Wayland pageant on Nov. 14 and walked away with the crown … after aweing the crowd with a talent that is not typical of many pageant contestants. A biology and chemistry major from Stinnett, Kelley’s strengths lie in the science lab. For her talent, she prepared a demonstration called Elephant Toothpaste that combines hydrogen peroxide with a catalyst to create an explosion of foam.
“To make it more theatrical, I boiled the peroxide so it would react super quick and shoot really high in the air,” Kelly explained. She did, however, use a peroxide mixture that was safe even though the best reaction would come from a higher percentage hydrogen peroxide mixture. This mixture, however, is not safe to touch with open skin.
At dress rehearsal, her first practice run shot about 3 feet in the air – a result that was inadequate for Kelly. She adjusted the mixture, and the second run shot about 8 feet.
“I thought I could handle that,” she said. “But when I did it Saturday night …”
Kelly used a potassium iodide catalyst that was more concentrated. Her peroxide also spent more time boiling making it hotter before being brought on stage for the demonstration. The result was an explosion of foam that nearly hit the ceiling in Harral Auditorium.
“When I added to potassium iodide, the reaction took long enough for me to think this is not going to work,” she said. “My heart stopped. I don’t know if it was evident on my face, but I was freaking out internally.”
While the initial reaction took longer, the result was overwhelming. And while Kelly said should could have used a splash zone like Sea World issues for Shamu, the audience was significantly entertained … by science.
“I was like, ‘I’m sorry. But that was really cool.’ I was just as shocked as everyone else,” Kelly said. “The foam was absolutely everywhere.”
Science has been at the forefront of Kelly’s time at Wayland. She has been an instrumental member of Dr. Adam Rinehart’s research team, looking at the effects of plant extracts on breast cancer cells. This semester the team began treating mice that had been injected with breast cancer cells with two extract compounds. The results have been mixed.
“The treatment I am using makes them crazy,” Kelly said. “Mice are really social creatures. They live in packs. The group that we have is mean to each other, and they fight with each other, and they bite you when you try to take them out of the cage. With the other treatment we are using, they are really calm.”
The research team is at the point where they will soon test the tumors in the mice to see if either treatment has been effective. Both treatments have previously shown positive results in lab experiments.
Kelly, who will graduate in May, hopes to continue her education at medical school where she will train to be a pediatric neurologist. Until that time, she hopes to use her status as Miss Wayland to help encourage younger children to become interested in science. Following the pageant, she has already asked by an elementary school teacher to speak to the school kids and show them Elephant Toothpaste in hopes of fostering a love for science in younger kids.
Kelly loves the idea of speaking to future scientists. She feels comfortable relating to kids and would love to have the opportunity to show them the fun side of science.
“I know a lot of time, since we have standardized tests, teachers don’t get to do the fun stuff,” she said. “If I could start in elementary schools and show them you can do fun stuff, I could possibly change the mind of the person who will find the cure for cancer or be the next really cool doctor, or nurse, or scientist.”
Kelly said she is more than willing to speak to groups of school children and show them the benefits of pursuing an education in science. If schools are interested in having Kelly speak to their students, contact the Wayland Student Activities Office at 806-291-3752.