By JULIE CARLE
BG Independent News
William “Bill” Scovell rubbed elbows with Nobel Prize winners. He has written three scientific books and over 60 articles in scientific journals.
The now retired Bowling Green State University professor was considered one of the internationally recognized scholars in biochemistry/molecular biology as it relates to the role of a cellular protein in enabling estrogen responsiveness.
Those chapters of his life — spanning 50 years that spanned academic rigor, intense research, and more than 20 grants from the National Institutes of Health — are occupied by a different genre.
His latest literary feat is a 222-page collection of 20 short stories that combine nostalgia, humor and a positive attitude to life’s lessons.
Scovell said his book You Can’t Make It Up is autobiographical fiction. Many of the short stories are based on his life, from his childhood days during the air raids in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, to his adventures in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s while attending conferences.
Its beginnings were humble and humble. He was not a very good student throughout elementary and middle school. “I didn’t take school very seriously until about 10th grade,” Scovell admitted. “I didn’t like general science. Biology and chemistry were easy and physics was OK. I thought I could be a chemist because it’s about equations and descriptions.”
This set him on the path to studying science.
His father, who owned a paint shop and painting business where Scovell acquired his strong work ethic, was unsure that his son should pursue a career in chemistry, especially research.
“In my generation, our parents felt the boys needed to go to college, but they didn’t care what we studied. I thought I was a pharmacist or a chemical engineer, but once I found out what a chemical engineer does, I didn’t care anymore,” Scovell said.
A couple of chemistry professors at the university took an interest in him and encouraged him to consider graduate school for a teaching and research career.
He received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Minnesota, where he and his wife Eleanor lived for four years. She worked as a surgical nurse at the University Hospital with Dr. C. Walton Lillihei, considered the father of open-heart surgery, and delved into chemistry.
A combination of good fortune and perseverance on his part over several years paved a new direction for the chemist-turned-biochemist-molecular biologist.
A postdoctoral position at Princeton introduced him to the “excitement of biology.”
He joined BGSU faculty in 1974 as the first researcher on campus to use a laser in his research.
Scovell learned from scientists who were making major advances in cancer chemotherapy with a platinum-based component. He became interested in biological engineering, DNA, genes and gene expression, and developed his own theories on the interaction of platinum with DNA inside the cell. Eventually, he presented his research ideas to the National Institutes of Health and received the first of many NIH grants.
He has held NIH grants for 30 of the 35 years that he was at BGSU. He wrote more than 20 grant applications over the course of his career and became known as an expert in his field of research. He retired in 2010 but stayed one more year to complete his last NIH fellowship.
The transition from academic science writer to creative writer was initiated after a college class reunion. A group of college classmates “wanted to get to know each other better, so we wrote a five- or six-page essay about what we’d been doing since graduating,” Scovell recalled.
This assignment led him to believe that his four children — Sherry, Bill Jr., Jeffrey, and Christopher — didn’t know much about him other than his work. He wrote and shared a 220-page memoir on elementary school, high school, and college. The three doctors and a businessman encouraged him to make his memoirs into a book.
Scovell found this newfound writing process refreshing.
“In science, you propose that you look at something and determine something about a scientific field. You write a hypothesis with specific goals and what you will do. You write a peer-reviewed paper. Scientific research and its writing can be particularly limiting because you need data and you have to interpret it,” he said.
“On the other hand, you don’t have any limitations with this type of book. It chooses the right words, interesting words and interesting phrases, but you can take it anywhere. It is so much fun.”
His favorite stories include those about little league baseball and elementary school air raid drills. But he admitted he still giggles when he reads the other stories, like “I Spent a Lifetime in a Calf Slaughterhouse One Afternoon” and “Dusty’s Picture of Mickey’s (Mantle) Big Year.”
While he has written about a dozen other stories, it is uncertain if they will be published.
The whole process of writing, editing and publishing is a time-consuming process. He doesn’t account for it. If “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” does well, it’s a possibility.
The book is available online from the Friesen Press website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple Books.