A 2016 NSU alumnus co-authored a paper published in the international peer-reviewed Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research about his research to discover drugs that could possibly stop the spread of HIV within infected individuals.
The Scholars’ graduate, Blake Schouest, worked on the paper under the mentorship of the Scholars’ chemistry professor, Dr. Massimo D. Bezoari, who also co-authored the paper. The title is “Investigation of Stilbenes as Potential Inhibitors of Human Immunodeficiency Virus by Computational Docking.”
Schouest’s reasearch was an extension of his senior thesis project that is part of the core curriculum in the Scholars’ College. He and Bezoari used computer simulations in drug discovery in order to study how to stop the spread of HIV.
“Stilbene is a class of compound which has been postulated to slow the spread of HIV, so we used computer algorithms to identify more effective inhibitors,” Schouest said. “We identified several compounds that could prove to be more effective drugs than current therapeutic candidates.”
He became interested in the study of HIV in the summer of 2015 when he did an internship at Tulane School of Medicine where he worked on an HIV project.
Schouest said he decided to attend NSU after receiving a scholarship to the Scholars’ College. At the time, he had no idea that it “would heavily influence how he viewed the world and civilization in general.”
NSU proved to leave another positive impression on him through Dr. Bezoari.
“Dr. Bezoari was an extremely supportive mentor throughout the whole process of research and also writing of the manuscript,” Schouest said. “He pushed me to accomplish more than I ever imagined was possible as an undergrad. I know he does the same with other students, and this is what makes him such a great professor and friend.”
Among those that are proud of Schouest for his accomplishments is NSU sophomore Tori Mato. She attended high school with Schouest and graduated with his sister in 2015.
“He was very nice to everyone and a great representation of [our] Parish,” Mato said. “And any time you asked anyone about Blake, they had nothing but nice things to say about him.”
Schouest was born and raised in Des Allemands, Louisiana by parents Brent and Rebecca Schouest. Des Allemands is known for its catfish, and Schouest grew up with fishing with his dad, now one of his favorite pastimes.
“I was always so interested in how catfish could stay alive so long, even after they were delayed,” Schouest said. “I think this is where my real fascination with biology came from.”
While at NSU, he was also a member of the rowing team for two years and was a student-athlete tutor for three years. He graduated in May 2016 at the top of his class with a 4.0 GPA and two degrees, one a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts with a concentration in scientific inquiry and a minor in microbiology, and the other a Bachelor of Science in biology with a concentration in biomedical sciences. He is now a Ph.D student in biomedical sciences at Tulane School of Medicine.