Miss USA Kara McCullough is a government scientist from DC

The new Miss USA says she wants to inspire children to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Miss District of Columbia, Kara McCullough, reacts after being crowned the new Miss USA in Las Vegas. John Locher / AP Photo
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LAS VEGAS // Kara McCullough, a scientist working for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has been crowned Miss USA.

McCullough, who represented the District of Columbia in the pageant, was born in Naples, Italy, and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She said she wants to inspire children to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“I love science,” McCullough said. “I look at this as a great opportunity to ... get to experience worldwide culture, as well as just having the opportunity to be impacted by so many children, hopefully in the maths and sciences.”

McCullough beat 50 other contestants and will represent the US at the Miss Universe contest.

This was the second year in a row that the representative of the nation’s capital won the Miss USA title. Last year, District of Columbia resident Deshauna Barber became the first-ever military member to win Miss USA.

This year’s top five finalists were asked questions that touched on the pros and cons of social media, women’s rights and issues affecting teenagers. McCullough was asked whether she thinks affordable health care for all US citizens is a right or a privilege. She said it is a privilege.

“As a government employee, I’m granted health care and I see first-hand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs.”

McCullough said she will be discussing with her supervisor whether she will take a leave of absence from her job at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during her one-year reign.

Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg, who studies marketing and Spanish at Rutgers University, was the runner-up at the event held in Las Vegas.

Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg. John Locher / AP Photo

Verg was one of five women who participated in the pageant who immigrated to the US with their families at a young age. Verg and the women representing Florida, North Dakota, Hawaii and Connecticut described the challenges and opportunities they faced as immigrants.

Verg said she and her parents immigrated from India to the US with only US$500 (Dh1,800) in their pockets when she was 4. She said she did not have coat for her first winter and the family struggled to adjust.

“I want to show Americans that the definition of what it means to be American is changing,” the 20 year old said. “It’s not just one face. There are many different people who are Americans, and I feel like Asian-Americans often times are left out of the conversation.”

* Associated Press