Lost in Literature: Professor Bill Chura Profile by Paige Zander

Hello, everyone, and welcome to an installment called “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Dr. Bill Chura, Lewis University Biology Professor. Dr. Chura was interviewed by Lewis student Paige Zander. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.

Lost in LiteraturebChura

The quote by John Wooden, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” is Lewis University professor Dr. Chura’s favorite inspirational quote. Dr. Chura spends most of his days reading what he would describe to be “serious and dry contents.” From textbook to textbook and PowerPoint to PowerPoint, it is no surprise that when he is allotted leisure time, he reads for pleasure; and he prefers fiction in order to “read to get lost rather than to learn.” When asked how often he reads for pleasure he exclaims, “not enough!” He does manage to find time on vacation, ideally on the beach with the aroma of salt water and the sound of the waves, or he finds time before bed (as long as the Bulls, Bears, or Blackhawks are not playing).

An interest for biology and literature started at an early age for Dr. Chura. As a kid, he admits he had bug collections that entailed putting “pins through their thorax and all,” and even wrote some poetry himself. He called himself a “biology-minded kid,” but also showed an interest in poetry and quotes for athletics. Even though Chura confessed he had a bug collection growing up, he was also a very athletic kid. Growing up, he played basketball, baseball, football, and tennis. Through athletics Chura explained how he found peace and alleviation from all distractions and family life. During his years at Mount Carmel High School and Benedictine University, he continued his basketball career. As an athlete, he recalled how he frequently would read inspirational quotes and messages that focused on teamwork, persistence, and success. He explained how he “felt inspired and moved by the words of others” through poetry and quotes.  Going back to his favorite quote by John Wooden, Chura learned that giving your best effort in the first place will ultimately save you time, whether it be in athletics or typing up a rough draft for an assignment.

millennium-trilogy-stieg-larsson

For reading pleasure, the most abundant genre of literature in Chura’s personal library is Swedish crime fiction by authors like Stieg Larsson (the late author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series) and Henning Mankell. The Swedish crime fiction author that would most likely be on his nightstand right now would be Hakan Nesser. Even though he has a great interest in crime fiction, if he had the chance to co-write with an author he would choose Paul David Hewson for his “timeless, pure poetry.” Chura’s greatest interest is in poetry, and he even recommended that everyone read the poem “Sea Fever” by John Masefield.

Sea FeverBesides crime fiction, poems, and inspirational quotes, Chura also greatly enjoys the musical aspect of literature. He explained how music had a great influence on him, stating some of the best memories he has of his father was listening to music with him. He explained that he “found a passion in listening to the lyrics, and then hoped the album supplied them.” Some of the artists he recalled listening to growing up include Fleetwood Mac, Moody Blues, Beach Boys, and Rolling Stones. Chura also said that if he had to choose between being a great author, musician, or film producer, he would love to be a musician and song writer; more specifically “a great American singer/songwriter like Paul Simon.”

I know that I especially hate writing (like a lot of college students), but one piece of advice Dr. Chura gave was that if students would simply read and write more, they would become better writers. He explained how it took him years to become confident in his writing, and that he learned to write “based upon constant revision and editing.” I would gladly take his word, considering his proudest accomplishment in writing was publishing the dissertation Involvement of Estrogen in the Dynamic Regulation of Neuropeptide Y (NPY) Y1 Receptor Expression in the Paraventricular and Supraoptic Nuclei of Female Rats. Chura explained that the experience of publishing his findings was “fantastic” and would open the door to teaching, which was what he always wanted to do. He said the challenging part of the process was constantly gathering new data and putting aside frustrations to begin the writing process. He was told by professors that he was a good writer, but “writing scientifically for a scientific audience is a different manner.” He said when it came to scientific writing, he was “mediocre and had to trust [his] mentors if [he] wanted to become a better writer.” This is true not only for scientific writing, but all forms of writing, whether it be for a catholic high school class, or a scientific publication.

Dr. Chura was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools from childhood to adulthood. After attending schools like Mount Carmel and Benedictine, Chura decided he wanted to teach at Lewis University; he felt he would “directly play an active role in a student’s education.” To teach in higher education was always what he wanted to do, and a midsize or a small university would be ideal for him. Lecturing to a 30-student classroom versus a room of 100+ students was of great importance for Chura. At Lewis University, he is able to play that “active role” in a student’s education, instead of just peering out and speaking to a sea of faces in a massive lecture hall.

I am in one of Chura’s biology classes, and he definitely plays the active role, making sure each student understands every answer marked wrong on a test, or relating topics back to his own experiments in graduate school. Having his dissertation published ensures me that he is a credible professor, and his knowledge of literature and biology is immense. He has even pulled up pictures of an axon in a rat brain slice from his findings in his dissertation and used them as examples in class. From turning PowerPoints into opera musicals, to explaining the function of myosin and actin in the human body, to creating “Feature Music Fridays” to get to know each student better, Chura plays an active role in every student he teaches.

Acts of Reading and Writing: Meet Bill Chura

Q: What book might we find on your nightstand right now?nesser+return01

A: Probably something by Hakan Nesser.

Q: If you had the chance to co-write with one author, whom would you choose? Why?

A: Paul David Hewson–pure poetry and timeless.

Q: Describe your perfect reading atmosphere.

A: My ideal reading atmosphere would definitely be beach/pool in the shade listening to waves and smelling the sea.

Q: What might your personal library look like?

A lot of Swedish crime fiction: Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell. Also, Grisham and Paulo Coelho. I reluctantly have been putting books on kindle though, so the library is not as congested.

Q: If you could “re-make” any movie that was based on a book, what movie would it be?

A: No idea. I rarely read books with the purpose of comparing them with the movie. It is not something I do regularly.

Q: What piece of literature can you read over and over again?

A: I am embarrassed to say that I cannot think of any novel recently that I have read for the second time. I am eager to move on and dive into something else. I suppose in general reading poetry over and over is something I have done.

Q. Give us a quote.

A: Well, I looked my demons in the eyes
laid bare my chest, said “Do your best, destroy me.
You see, I’ve been to hell and back so many times,
I must admit you kind of bore me.”
There’s a lot of things that can kill a man
There’s a lot of ways to die
Yes, and some already dead that walk beside me
There’s a lot of things I don’t understand
Why so many people lie
Well, it’s the hurt I hide that fuels the fires inside me

-Ray LaMontagne

Thank you, Dr. Chura!

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