When Blake Schouest was 12 years, his aunt brought him to the lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, where she was working on her Ph.D. and what he saw sent his mind spinning with possibilities.Schouest had found his career and, the more he thought about it, the better a fit it became for his methodical, steadfast mind.
The career path was clear to him – researcher.
As a student at Hahnville High School, Schouest laid his plans into play. Biology was his favorite subject, as well as English that worked well with his overall pursuit of a well-balanced education.
“It’s pretty important to have that perspective so you can see where your own work fits in the bigger picture,” Schouest said. “For example, it’s important for assessing the direction these areas of study might go into the future.”
The Bayou Gauche native and resident found what he needed at HHS and when he graduated in 2012 among the top students in his class, he was ready.
“HHS truly did prepare me very well for college,” he said.
From there, he went to Northwestern State University’s Louisiana Scholars College, a liberal arts school where everyone majors in liberal arts and working toward a degree. He jumped into his studies with enthusiasm until Schouest realized he had enough credits for two degrees and this year he got them – liberals arts with a concentration in scientific inquiry and minor in microbiology, and another in biology with a concentration in biomedical sciences.
“The liberal arts program gives you a wide education in areas like art and history, and gave me a much bigger perspective of fields including science,” he said. Schouest also was doing rotations in different departments like immunology and biochemistry to pinpoint his area of research.
“I guess at that level of study you can understand the mechanisms that underlie life and also disease so you’re better equipped with understanding diseases,” he said. “It’s applicable to human well being. It’s an applied science. I think it’s why I like it.”
It was at this point, he was sure he wanted to pursue science research with the goal of owning his own research lab.
Schouest is preparing to attend the Tulane School of Medicine’s graduate program to pursue his doctorate in biomedical sciences. As a graduate student, he certainly intends to learn different techniques and how to do research professionally to ensure his work is meaningful.
“Even if I get something I do kind of expect, I have to make sure it’s a positive result and keeping that perspective to avoid jumping to conclusions,” he said. “You want to make sure you’ve got some good data.”
His own life may be the ultimate test.
Schouest will be working on his Ph.D. five to seven years and then he plans on pursuing his postdoctoratal studies where he plans on working in a lab for additional training. He will do this about two years and then he earns the title “principle investigator” and can start his own lab.
Based on his internships, he anticipates virology will be his area of study such as herpes simplex and HIV.
“I’m certainly happy where I am,” Schouest said. “I think that I’ve picked the right career path for me. At one point, I was thinking about going to medical school, but I think, for my personality, I’m better being in a lab and doing research.”