From the Editor

This year it was my turn, and my pleasure, to serve as the editor of Angles 2011: An Online Magazine of Exemplary Writing from the Introductory Writing Subjects at MIT.

As Andrea Walsh, the editor of Angles 2010, wrote in her editor’s note last year, “A memorable piece of writing—in the freshness of its prose, the power of its argument, the structure of its narrative—invites readers to cross the boundaries of their own experiences and challenge their ways of looking at the world.” Once again we are pleased to present the work of writers who took an introductory writing subject in 2010-2011 whose prose is memorable in all the ways Andrea described.  From Rosie Sugrue, whose essay on a science subject for the general public “Fukushima and the Bogey-Man,” to Xunjie Li, who discovers in the MIT Archives a family connection, to George Bailey, whose essay “The Tempest” presents the drama of a storm that also carries a threat of family disaster, to Shannon Moran, whose “Freshman Year: On the Rocks,” argues against the plague of drinking on college campuses nationwide, we are very proud of the work our students do in the introductory writing subjects.

Nor do these writers shy away from tackling large social issues.  Kelly Ran, in “The Secret Lives of Fungi,” argues that inoculating soil with fungi can increase production and minimize the use of pesticides.  Robin Cheng, whose essay “Facing the Crisis of Digital Information Growth,” addresses the challenge of the dramatic increase in the need for storing digital information.  Keren Gu in “Who’s Better and Who’s the Best” discusses the ways measuring the success of games and commercial enterprises is done. And Heather Ryan, in “Awkward Geeks,” describes the pleasure she finds in discovering a television sitcom that presents physicists in realistic ways.  Jackie Knopka in her essay “The Gift of Education,” describes how the pursuit of knowledge descends through the generations of her family.  Devin Cornish, in “Hood Rich,” addresses the ways poor people like to create an image of themselves as comfortably well off, a deception that demonstrates the ways contemporary American culture values image over reality.

This year we have two essays from students who were in introductory courses in literature.  John Wang’s “Elizabeth’s Monarchial Legitimacy” describes how Shakespeare used the political situation in his plays to address a contemporary political situation.  And Rebecca MacRae performs a graceful character study of Babo from Melville’s Benito Cereno.

Alex Hsu’s “The Harmonious Partnership of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II” describes how a professional friendship changed the shape of American musicals; Hamza Sheikh tackles the thorny ethical issue of physician-assisted suicide in “Who Makes the Call?”  Andrew Hyer in his “Microchips and Nanotubes: Using Carbon Nanotubers in Electronics,” makes a complicated scientific subject easily relatable to a general reader.  And Douglas Mendoza in “Slavery in the U.S.” points out that slavery really doesn’t just mean chattel ownership of one human being by another.  Fangfei Shen in “Eggsperiments” demonstrates how she tries to replicate the research of a Parisian scientist on her own.  Sae Jang’s “Musical Cycloid” describes her passion for playing her cello.  And Scott Stephens describes a brotherly relationship that was not always peaceful, but one that becomes a bond between brothers who are friends. Patrick Wu describes the phenomenon of competitive eating in “A Quick Stomach Turner”; Kristian Fennessy analyzes the “friending” in online social networks in “500 Million Friends.”  And Victor Morales talks about his family’s religious tradition in “Journey to My Beginnings.”

Extravagant thanks go to Shannon Moran, who served as this year’s editorial assistant, and to the Undergraduate Research Opportunity office, which funded her position. Reformatting the magazine to a WordPress file took a lot of effort and a lot of work on Shannon’s part.

Once again we have dedicated this year’s edition of Angles to Umaer Basha.  We continue to be  very grateful to the Basha family for the endowment that will assure the continuation of Angles into the future.

And now, read on, and enjoy!

Rebecca Blevins Faery, Ph.D.

Director of First Year Writing, MIT


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