ASU student's musical journey to Miss America 2022

January 27, 2022

Music has been a part of Emma Broyles’ life as far back as she can remember. 

Broyles, a music minor in ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, was crowned Miss America 2022 at the 100th anniversary competition on Dec. 16, 2021. Representing her home state of Alaska, she was awarded a record $100,000 in scholarship assistance. Portrait of ASU student and Miss America 2022 Emma Broyles. Emma Broyles, Miss America 2022. Download Full Image

More: ASU honors student Emma Broyles crowned Miss America 2022

“Music was always a really big part of my life growing up,” Broyles said. “My parents put me and my brothers in voice lessons, piano lessons, violin lessons, flute lessons, even ukulele lessons — any type of music lesson we could possibly want.”

Broyles said when she was 4 or 5 years old, she participated in her first music-related activity with a mini-music machine at a small singing and dancing camp in Anchorage. She took private voice lessons in elementary school and continued until she joined two choirs in middle school. In high school, she sang in choirs and school musicals.

Broyles said she became serious about competing for scholarships when she was a sophomore and entered her first competition, the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition.

Working with her high school voice teacher Jenna Hensley, Broyles said she competed in local competitions, classical and musical theater competitions and NATS every year because she loved to sing.

She progressed to the national student auditions for NATS in Las Vegas and placed second in the upper high school musical theater category. It was the first time anyone from Alaska had ever made the finals.

Broyles said she met Carole FitzPatrick, associate professor of voice in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and her future voice teacher, at NATS when she was a junior in high school. FitzPatrick told her if she ever wanted to have a trial lesson when she came to Arizona to let her know. So Broyles and her family drove to Arizona from Las Vegas to tour ASU. Broyles said she liked ASU so much, she knew immediately it was where she wanted to attend school.

“When I came back to ASU for the music auditions in February of my senior year of high school, I had a trial lesson with Professor FitzPatrick,” Broyles said. “I really liked her and knew I wanted to study with her. I intended to pursue a double major in biomedical sciences and voice performance.”

Broyles was admitted as a voice major on a scholarship from the then School of Music and planned to add a biomedical sciences major when she was eligible.      

“When Emma began studying with me, she did not have a lot of classical repertoire," FitzPatrick said. “Instead of relying on her exceptional talent and intelligence, Emma always pursued improvement, always wanted to learn a new song, always wanted to just keep getting better."  

After consulting with advisers, Broyles realized it would take six years to earn both degrees, which was not feasible at the time. Knowing she wanted to attend medical school and pursue dermatology, she changed her major to biomedical sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and her voice major to a minor after her first year.

“When I was a voice major and took a lot of voice classes, it was so much fun, but once I changed my major, there was so much science,” Broyles said. “I needed music in my life.”

Broyles has sung in two ASU choirs since she was a freshman. First, Sol Singers (a soprano-alto choir) and the Barrett Choir, since she was a Barrett, The Honors College student, and later, in the Concert Choir and the Barrett Choir. She continued singing in both until she won the title.

“I love singing in a choir,” Broyles said. “There's something special about making music with a group of people that you've been with for a while and that you like. It takes a lot of teamwork and cooperation and learning how to cooperate and be part of a team is a good skill to have in everyday life.”

David Schildkret, director of choral activities, founder of the Barrett Choir and professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, said there are very few students who sing in two choirs due to the time commitment.

“Emma fit in with the groups immediately,” Schildkret said. “She was always willing to sing in the section I needed her to sing with, soprano or alto. Not many students have that versatility with their voice. She is, in the absolute best sense of the word, a team player.”

Broyles said before studying music, she would sing whatever style of music she wanted. From a Puccini aria to a piece from “The Pirates of Penzance,” Broyles was comfortable with every style and level of singing.

She sang a mix of classical and musical theater in high school but preferred musical theater, and said she even considered musical theater as her major over classical voice performance.

“As a voice performance major, your focus is mostly classical music, although at ASU we allow and encourage crossover to musical theater all the time,” FitzPatrick said. “Music theater is the type of singing Emma really loves to do, and since she changed to the minor, we've been focusing on that repertoire almost exclusively.”

Broyles said she started working with FitzPatrick on her song for the talent portion of the Miss America competition at her first lesson in the fall semester. She sang “Let Me Be Your Star” from the NBC television show “Smash.”

“She’s a natural performer in the sense that she makes a listener feel immediately comfortable,” Schildkret said. “Emma has the ability to connect in a very human way. She's very genuine, she's very down to earth, she's very sincere and she's very hardworking.”

Talent has historically been a large percentage of each contestant’s preliminary score in the Miss America competition and in the Miss America organization. The total score is 50% talent, 20% private interviews with judges, 15% on-stage interview and 15% social impact pitch.

Emma Broyles

Broyles is crowned Miss America 2022 on stage.

Though being a full-time student is not possible during Broyles’ year of service due to traveling as much as 20,000 miles a month around the country and oftentimes the world, she plans to take a few online classes for her major. She also hopes to sing with one of the choirs when she is in Arizona.

According to the Miss America Organization, Miss America serves as an advocate and role model for young women while sharing her passion and life story, as well as the legacy of the Miss America Organization.

“My advice to young women who have a dream that’s bigger than life is to not be too hard on themselves and to pursue every experience and every dream that they have and not put too much pressure on themselves,” Broyles said.

Broyles said she learned to approach new challenges with a relaxed and positive attitude when, after winning both of her first pageants, the Anchorage and Alaska Outstanding Teen, she did not place or win any awards at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition. Not winning was devastating, she said, because her expectations were so high. She soon realized that having the opportunity to work on her interviews and polish her talent were as valuable as winning.

After a hiatus from competing, Broyles won the title of Miss Alaska in June 2021, singing "Show Off" from “The Drowsy Chaperone” for her talent.

Broyles said she arrived at Miss America week looking to make lifelong friendships, feel good about how she performed, try not to compare herself to any of the other candidates and make the most that she possibly could out of the experience.

It was an incredible week, she said, and she knew she would return home happy.

She didn’t expect to win. She didn’t expect to even place.

“What's going to make you go far in life is to be very flexible and to be happy with the way things work out because you were able to have the experience, good and bad,” Broyles said. “Even if things don't work out in your favor, take it as a learning experience, regardless of the outcome.”

Broyles also received the social impact pitch award for her social impact initiative, “Building Community Through Special Olympics,” and was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. She has an older brother with Down syndrome and has been involved with Special Olympics for over 12 years.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


Biodesign researcher Michael Lynch wins coveted lifetime achievement award in genetics

January 27, 2022

Michael Lynch, director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution at Arizona State University, is the winner of the 2022 Genetics Society of America Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal for his far-reaching and influential contributions to science.

The award, one of the most prestigious in the field of genetics, is granted in honor of an individual member’s exceptional lifetime accomplishments as well as history of dedicated mentorship to fellow geneticists. Graphic illustration of a double helix. Michael Lynch, director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution at Arizona State University, is the winner of the 2022 Genetics Society of America Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal for his far-reaching and influential contributions to science. Download Full Image

The Genetics Society of America is an international community of more than 5,000 scientists devoted to advancing the field of genetics. The Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal was established in 1981 and named in honor of the prominent geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866–1945). Morgan’s genetic work on DrosophilaDrosophila is a genus of flies, belonging to the family Drosophilidae, whose members are often called "small fruit flies." Source: Wikipedia  earned him the Nobel Prize in 1933 for discoveries unlocking the secrets of heredity, marking the first experimental verification that chromosomes are the carriers of genetic information.

“Given the numerous luminaries who have received this award in the past, few in the areas of evolutionary genetics, this was an extraordinary surprise and honor, and also a testament to how population and quantitative genetics is viewed among the broader community," Lynch said.

Lynch has followed Morgan’s tradition of penetrating inquiry over a lengthy and diverse career. His current research focuses on exploration of the underlying mechanisms of evolution at the gene, genomic, cellular and phenotypic levels. In more than 250 research publications, he has deepened the field’s understanding of the role of mutation, random genetic drift and recombination.

Over 160 years after Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” the field of evolutionary study remains not only the cornerstone of biology but one of the most explosively active areas of research in the life sciences. One of Lynch’s primary objectives is to integrate evolutionary theory with cell biology, using principles from population genetics and biophysics.

As Lynch explains in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Natural selection is just one of several evolutionary mechanisms, and the failure to realize this is probably the most significant impediment to a fruitful integration of evolutionary theory with molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

Lynch has been a major force in the development of neutral theories in which varying population sizes of different lineages influence mutation rates and guide the way in which genome architectures are ultimately structured. Such research has helped expand the discipline beyond the purely adaptive explanations of genes and evolution that have dominated the field since Charles Darwin.

Portrait of ASU Professor Michael Lynch.

Michael Lynch is the director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution and a professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences. He is the principal investigator for the new NSF-funded Biological Integration Institute for Mechanisms of Cellular Evolution.

To advance these investigations, he recently formed the Biological Integration Institute on Mechanisms of Cellular Evolution, focusing on the emergent field of evolutionary cell biology and supported by the National Science Foundation. 

His quantitative and theoretical insights on the mechanisms of evolution are illuminated by laboratory investigations of a range of organisms, including the microcrustacean Daphnia, the ciliate Paramecium and many diverse microbial species.

The integration of evolution and cell biology is one of the last uncharted research terrains in evolution. In addition to addressing foundational issues in evolutionary theory and exploring the intricacies of cell structure and function, the research has many practical applications. These include investigations of the emergence of antibiotic resistance, the explosive growth of destructive microbial populations such as blue-green algal blooms, organismal responses to climate change and the development of new methods of biomass production.

“I was thrilled, but not surprised, at the announcement of this prestigious award to Professor Lynch. He is a prolific scientist who has been a pioneer in the field for decades,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the ASU Biodesign Institute. “Further, his leadership of the new Biological Integration Institute will place the ASU Biodesign Institute at the forefront of investigations into the new and largely unexplored domain of evolutionary cell biology.”

Lynch is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has also served as president of the Genetics Society of America; the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution; the Society for the Study of Evolution; and the American Genetics Association. Previously, he has held faculty positions at the University of Illinois, University of Oregon and Indiana University.

The Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal is only the most recent in a string of prestigious awards earned by Lynch, which includes the Lifetime Contribution Award from the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, bestowed in 2021.

Lynch is the author of several highly influential books, including two with Bruce Walsh focusing on quantitative genetics: “Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits,” 1998, and “Selection and Evolution of Quantitative Traits,” 2018. In 2007, “The Origins of Genome Architecture” appeared, a book the journal Nature referred to as “… the best, most up-to-date and thorough summary of genome evolution published.

His most recent book, “The Origins of Cellular Architecture,” is available in its entirety online.

Richard Harth

Science writer, Biodesign Institute at ASU