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A Chemist at a Federal Agency Wins Miss USA

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Kara McCullough, a 25-year-old chemist in NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, won the title. Kara McCullough, a 25-year-old chemist in NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, won the title. John Locher/AP

A federal employee working at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was named Miss USA on Sunday evening, and pledged to spend her year with the crown encouraging more women to join government and eventually, agency leadership ranks.

Kara McCullough, a 25-year-old chemist in NRC’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, represented Washington, D.C., in the annual competition. McCullough grew up in the federal ranks as a military brat, with her father serving as a Navy chief petty officer. In addition to her NRC employment, McCullough volunteers annually at a science fair hosted by the Food and Drug Administration as a judge.

McCullough said she would be an ambassador to bring more women into government science, technology, engineering and mathematics positions. She noted that in her experience in federal service, women are often underrepresented.

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"Personally, I want to see more women possessing leadership positions in private and government energy and health sciences agencies; not just conducting laboratory research,” McCullough said after her victory. “As a woman scientist in the government, I have witnessed and been in many meetings where the ratio of men to women is 10:2. I believe more women should be given the opportunity to be representatives in the energy and medical fields."

On stage, McCullough even made a passing reference to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Asked whether she believed affordable health care for all Americans is a privilege or a right, she said in a response that made waves that it was a privilege, explaining: "As a government employee, I am granted health care and I see first-hand that for one to have health care, you have to have jobs." 

NRC tweeted out a congratulatory message to McCullough on Monday. 

Eric Katz joined Government Executive in the summer of 2012 after graduating from The George Washington University, where he studied journalism and political science. He has written for his college newspaper and an online political news website and worked in a public affairs office for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. Most recently, he worked for Financial Times, where he reported on national politics.

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