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Alex Billioux was named a recipient of the Marshall Scholarship for 2003 and went to the Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford to pursue a Masters of Science degree in Clinical Medicine and a Doctorate of Philosophy (D. Phil.) in Molecular Angiogenesis which he has since completed. Alex is currently pursuing a medical degree. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in May 2003 with a major in Liberal Arts and Sciences, a concentration in Scientific Inquiry, and minors in Chemistry, Classics and Philosophy. While at the Scholars’ College, Billioux interned for two summers at the National Institutes of Health in the Disorders of Immunology Section of the Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute.  He helped develop and optimize a novel analytic technique for identification of human genomic and partial genomic DNA as a part of an animal model study peripheral to an ongoing clinical trial for adenosine-deaminase deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (ADA-SCID).  His research formed the basis of his senior thesis project. Billioux is the first Marshall recipient from Northwestern State University.  He was also the Louisiana State Representative and Finalist in the Rhodes Scholarship competition.
Below is his testimonial as to why he chose LSC, along with fond memories and valued lessons:

 

 

Why did I choose to attend the Louisiana Scholars’ College? A seemingly innocuous question; one, I might add, which I readily welcome and eagerly answer. However, as I sit writing this the summer following my graduation from that hallowed institution, the question takes on a more menacing, almost sneering demeanor. The question is no longer simply in my head, being recited in the calm voice of my internal monologue. Instead, for a terrifying moment, the voice is that of some sneering Ivy League bully questioning not only my choice of university, but my very education. The delusion passes, calm is restored, and I find that once again I have digressed. With full confidence I explain to the reader that I chose the Louisiana Scholars’ College with confidence. This confidence was begotten of two parents. The first was the example of my brother who himself had graduated from the Scholars’ College the year before I matriculated. The second was my, and, more importantly at the time, my parents’, belief in the importance of a solid liberal arts education. After having defeated the nasty beast of self-doubt who dared to rear his head, I can easily and proudly claim that I am honored to have spent the last four years of my 17 years of education at the Scholars’ College.

Why?  I thought I had made some headway against this question, but I find I have more to explain before it is laid to rest. I have thought about this question since the day I entered the College. For myself, I found that I have a love for knowledge. Though I plan to devote myself to medical research in the area of cancer gene therapy, this is by no means my only ambition in life. I also plan to write on a myriad of different topics, from medieval medicine in southern Italy to cosmopolitanist global ethics. Beyond those practical concerns, I find myself returning to my love of knowledge, philosophia is most apropos. I not only desired, and continue to desire, to acquire knowledge, I wanted to explore the implications of information, place things in historical perspective, and form new opinions and ways of thinking. These are precisely the sorts of activities for which the Scholars’ College prepared me.

Built on the solidest foundation of the Great Books tradition, my education took me from dissections in Biology Lab to discussions of the similarity between quantum mechanics and ancient Hindu teachings in Religious Philosophies of India and China. I was able to tailor my course layout to my needs, both as a pre-medical student and as a student of the world. I took the full regimen of science classes necessary for medical school, and many advanced science classes that are not even necessary. At the same time I was afforded the opportunity to take exciting humanities courses. I was even able to combine my dual interests in the sciences and the humanities by translating medieval Latin medical texts under the direction of Dr. Jean D’Amato. Indeed, beyond the exciting courses and flexibility in course layouts allowing for personalized educations, I think the greatest attribute the Scholars’ College has to offer is a community of great minds ready and eager for collaboration. Great minds, I beg to add, both in the form of students and professors. Some of my fondest memories of the College are of late night discussions in a friend’s room or one of the lobbies about a topic which, for a span of several hours, seemed like the most important issue in the world. From this recollection, other memories flood forward; I think of seminars that I prayed would never end because it felt as if I were engaged in something more than just important, something beautiful (to me, it was like listening to a Mozart piece, such as the first movement to his symphony No.25 in G minor: the pulsing beats hurtle one eagerly toward the brilliant finale of the piece, and yet one regrets that such emotion and sensation must anon end). I learned as much from my professors and peers as I did from the Great Books that we eagerly devoured and discussed.

I learned many important lessons at the Scholars’ College. Ironically, the last thing that I learned was why I wanted a liberal arts education. I find myself eagerly preparing for graduate school with medical school looming somewhere in the future. I am prepared.  I know this because over the last four years I have done more than amass pieces of information to impress admissions committees; I have learned how to learn.  I have developed beliefs about issues facing the world, investigated human nature (a necessary attribute for a physician, I would add), and built lasting friendships with classmates and professors. Most importantly, however, I have begun my journey towards living the examined life.