Science Cheerleader Theresa has worked hard for her many achievements, including cheering on the Patriots in the Superbowl and pursuing her PhD at Harvard. Now, Theresa wants to show you that that work ethic runs in the family! Read on below for Theresa’s interview with her science-minded sister, Bridget!

Bridget Oei was the first runner-up at this year’s Miss America competition. As Miss Connecticut 2018, she promotes her platform – Women in STEM: Inspiring the Next Generation of Innovators. She enjoys traveling around the state encouraging creativity and out-of-the-box thinking among students as they explore their potential as leaders in science and engineering. Bridget graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Environmental Chemistry and she plans to pursue a career in medicine. Bridget is also a world ranked Irish Step Dancer and enjoys surfing in her spare time. Here’s what Bridget has to say to all the aspiring scientists out there!

Bridget Oei competes at the Miss America pageant. Photo Credit: Miss America Program

What first sparked your interest in STEM?

I have been involved in science research since the 7th grade. My science fair projects were simple and innovative solutions to daily problems and I fell in love with the idea that at a young age, I could make a difference in the scientific community. I want to use my position as Miss Connecticut to encourage young women to think creatively and realize their own potential in STEM careers, and come to understand that STEM exploration is possible and effective at any age.

What inspired you to compete in pageants?

I have followed the Miss America Program and watched the competition every year on television since I was little. I became seriously interested in the program as a sophomore in college and wanted to pursue graduate school scholarships. After competing for the first time, I fell in love with the service opportunities that came with being a titleholder, and the platform available through the Miss America Program to making a positive difference in your community.

What was the most important thing you learned while competing for the title of Miss America?

Throughout my years of competing in pageants I have learned to focus on the aspects of competition that I can control. These factors include making sure I am confident, prepared, and presenting my best self. Ultimately the results of the competition are out of my control, so I have learned to not even worry about how I do! Staying focused on reaching your potential as an individual and competitor helps you grow as a person and is one of the most rewarding aspects of this experience.

Bridget works in a chemistry lab while earning her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Chemistry. Photo credit: University of Connecticut

How has your pageant work complemented your career in STEM?

As a future physician, I hope someday to interact with patients and communities to bring about their health and well-being. Today, I may not be able to treat any patients physically, but through my service work in pageants I have grown in my interpersonal skills, which will be important in my career. This year, I have been able to advocate for youths in their efforts to learn and grow, which will aid in my quest to become a sensitive health care provider as well as a supportive citizen.

Where do you hope to end up in your career? What do you see as your next step, and final end goal?

Currently I am excited by orthopedics, and can envision myself working as a surgeon helping to maintain and improve the mobility of our generations. I wish to be a practicing physician that serves the United States, but also travels annually to provide care for underserved communities around the world and provide them with quality healthcare. My quest all begins in medical school, which I hope to attend in the fall of 2019.

What advice do you have for young girls who are interested in STEM?

STEM is a great avenue for expression and an area that helps you discover the world around you. Sometimes you may encounter roadblocks or setbacks, but you can use failure to propel yourself forward. Find what you love to explore and be passionate about learning as much as you can about the subject.

Bridget currently balances her coursework in chemistry with her service as Miss Connecticut. Photo credit: Meadow Photography

There are stereotypes about women in STEM that make it seem unlikely that a scientist would also hold a Miss America state title. Obviously, these stereotypes are untrue and you’re a great example of that! How do you feel about challenging stereotypes about women in STEM (and pageants!)?

I think it is important that we women continue to challenge ourselves, and the stereotypes surrounding us. Being well rounded or multi-faceted is an exciting aspect of life that all people can appreciate. It’s time we really grasp the fact that with the right tools and resources, you can do it all! There is nothing wrong with being a pageant girl, or being a scientist. The best way to live your life to the fullest is to try to experience as much as you possibly can! I am honored to be a part of my generation, and help inspire other women to pursue their dreams.

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