On This Page
- Cover Art | Fernand Léger
- This page is currently under construction
- Shabbob | Jones
- Strings | Qiu '14
- Lock and Key | McGough '14
- The Great Famine | Langan '14
- Parkinson's Disease | Hong '13
- Embodiment in Religion | Seet '13
- Beauties and Beasts | Sellati '14
- The Shroud That Binds Us All | Berry '14
- Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony | Shi '14
- Heroes and Villians | Mermel '11
- From the Director | Paul Sawyer
- From the Editor | David Faulkner
- Discoveries Home
Discoveries | Spring 2012, No. 11
You are here
Cover Art | Fernand Léger
This page is currently under construction
Check back soon for a COMPLETE archive of this issue of Discoveries!
Shabbob | Jones
Shabbob | Laura E. Jones, Senior Research Associate
Laura E. Jones, is a Senior Research Associate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, originally from Pasadena, CA (Ph.D., Caltech ’95). Her research interest lies in the mathematical modeling of ecological systems, with a focus on populations of small, swiftly-growing creatures (viruses, plankton, insects) whose dynamics and evolution may be observed on the timescale of weeks, months, or seasons. Not content to write only technical papers, Laura enrolled in a creative nonfiction class taught by Dr. Katherine Gottschalk, ENGL 2880, “The Reflective Essay.” This essay, which won the Expository Writing Prize for Fall 2010, is a product of the wonderful learning and writing environment she experienced in that classroom.
Strings | Qiu '14
Strings | Kevin Qiu
Kevin Qiu, Engineering ’14, is an Operations Research and Informa- tion Engineering major from Brooklyn, NY. He won the Fall 2010 Elmer Markham Johnson Prize for his essay “Strings,” written for Jennifer Adams’s seminar ENGL 1158, “American Dreams, Ameri- can Nightmares: The Quest for Identity.” The essay was a way of ex- pressing his belief that those who live normal, uneventful lives can still tell a great story. In contrast to the typical engineering student, he enjoys literature more than math and science. He gives his thanks to his instructor, Jen Adams, for her excellent guidance and support during the writing process.
Lock and Key | McGough '14
Lock and Key: Rose-Hued | Jenny McGough '14
Jennifer R. McGough, Arts and Sciences ’14, is an Archaeology major from Vienna, VA. Her hope is to work in artifact conservationand restoration, focusing primarily on antiquities of East Asian regions such as China. However, Jennifer aims to be well-rounded in her experiences. Outside of her major, she enjoys pursuing other activities like singing with Cornell’s only Asian pop a cappella group, “FantAsia,” and joining Cornell’s newly re-established Anthropology club (“Cornell Anthropology Exchange”). She has also enjoyed a lifelong hobby of creative writing, and further developed her in- terest and ability in the course GerSt 1109, “From Fairy Tales to the Uncanny: Exploring the Romantic Consciousness,” where she explored classic German fairytales and their interpretations. Her essay, “Lock and Key: Rose-Hued,” won a James E. Rice, Jr. award for Fall 2010. She thanks her instructor, Alexis Briley, for her generous guidance during this essay.
The Great Famine | Langan '14
The Great Famine: The Emergence of a Mysterious Pathogen | Ruth-Anne Langan
Ruth-Anne Langan, Arts and Sciences ’14, is a Biological Sciences major interested in plant biology, genetics, and evolution. She curently works in the Martin Lab at The Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research here at Cornell as well as at the USDA Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, PA. She hopes to study interactions between host and pathogenic species in order to protect global food supplies and improve global health. Her essay, “The Great Famine: The Emergence of a Mysterious Pathogen,” written for PlPa 1100, “Liaisons with Friends and Foes: Symbiotic Asso- ciations in Nature,” won a James E. Rice Jr. prize for Spring 2011. Ruth-Anne would like to thank her instructor, Dr. Eric Nelson, for his invaluable guidance towards realizing and expressing her pas- sion for biology and scientific writing.
Parkinson's Disease | Hong '13
Parkinson's Disease: A Review on both Motor and Non-motor Symptoms | Diana Hong '13
Dianna Hong, Arts and Sciences ’13, is a Biological Sciences major, concentrating in Neurobiology and Behavior. Her essay, “There Is More to Parkinson’s Disease than Motor Dysfunction: A Review on both Motor and Non-Motor Symptoms,” which was written for BioNB 2220, “Introduction to Neurobiology,” won a Writing in the Majors Award for Spring 2011. Diana would like to thank Professor Carl Hopkins and her TA, Jenny Feng, for giving her the opportunity to improve her scientific writing skills. Currently, in addition to taking upper-level neurobiology courses, she is conducting research on spinal cord injury in the Harris-Warrick Lab. On campus, she is the editor-in-chief of The Research Paper, a student-run magazine that features undergraduate researchers at Cornell. Dianna is also a part of the executive board of Cornell Undergraduate Research Board, an Arts and Sciences peer advisor, and a volunteer at the Ithaca Youth Bureau through Cornell BIGS.
Embodiment in Religion | Seet '13
Embodiment in Religion | Victor Seet '13
Victor Seet, Engineering ’13, is an Applied Economics and Management major. His essay, “Embodiment in Religion,” which won an Honorable Mention for the James E. Rice, Jr. Prize for Spring 2011, was the culmination of a semester studying interactions between the mind, body, and environment in Psych 1140, “Language and the Body: Theories of Embodied Cognition.” Existing literature on embodiment has rarely ventured into applying the theory in a spiritual realm, which presented an opportunity to synthesize various sources and develop a new perspective. Portraying religious philosophies accurately and applying an empirical methodology to distinctly non-scientific processes was challenging, but successfully negotiating these two viewpoints was a rewarding journey. Victor is grateful for the advice and support that his instructor, Catalina Iricinschi, contributed throughout the semester.
Beauties and Beasts | Sellati '14
Beauties and Beasts: Physical Reflections of an Internal State of Being | Lillian Sellati '14
Lillian Sellati, Arts and Sciences ’14, is a Classical Civilizations and Anthropology double major. She is specifically interested inreligious syncretism in Roman Britain. More broadly, she enjoys studying how interaction between different cultures affects established societal norms and how these ideas are expressed artistically. Her essay, “Beauties and Beasts: Physical Reflections of an Internal State of Being,” which examines the medieval Christian adaptation of Classical ideas about beauty and physiognomy, was written for ArtH 1136, “Mapping the Monstrous and Marvelous of the Middle Ages and Beyond.” This essay won a James E. Rice, Jr. award for Spring 2011. Lillian would like to thank her parents and her instruc- tor, Kristen Streahle, for acting as a sounding board and helping to revise the essay.
The Shroud That Binds Us All | Berry '14
The Shroud That Binds Us All: How Veil Challenges Orientalist Sterotypes | Shannon Berry '14
Shannon Berry, Arts and Sciences ’14, is a native of northern California and a History major. Written for ArtH 1135, “Represent- ing North Africa in Art,” her essay, “The Shroud that Blinds Us All: How Veil Challenges Orientalist Stereotypes,” reflects her strong interest in fine arts and art history. Shannon wishes to thank her instructor, Holiday Powers, for her invaluable insight and feedback in developing this essay, which won a James E. Rice, Jr. award for Fall 2010. Shannon recently completed her second season with the Cornell Field Hockey team. She is also a member of the Iota chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta. Shannon plans to attend medical school upon graduating from Cornell in hope of pursuing a career in pediatrics.
Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony | Shi '14
Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony: A Piece Written for Children? | Detian Shi '14
Detian Shi, Engineering ’14, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a Computer Science major who is interested in the field of artificial intelligence. His dream is to one day develop AIs that can learn naturally and think critically. Having an interest in music and want- ing to explore new directions that could potentially help with this, he took Mark Ferraguto’s seminar: Music 1701, “Sound, Sense, and Ideas: Music of War and Peace.” His essay “Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony: A Piece Written for Children?” won an Hon- orable Mention for the Adelphic Award in Fall 2010, and examines Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony and some of its early criticism. Detian would like to thank Mark for all his valuable guidance and a truly insightful class.
Heroes and Villians | Mermel '11
Heroes and Villians: Man and Nature in Nissan's 'Leaf" Commercial | Jane Mermel '11
Jane MermeL is an alumna of the College of Arts and Sciences, graduating in 2011 with a major in Government and minors in Spanish, Art History, and Law and Society. A columnist and editor for the Cornell Daily Sun and active in many Cornell student groups, she also pursued internships and work experience in digital media and various charitable organizations. She won a Fall 2010 Honorable Mention for the Expository Writing Prize for her essay, “Heroes and Villains: Man and Nature in Nissan’s ‘Leaf’ Commercial,” written for Dr. David Faulkner’s ENGL 2880 seminar “TV Nation.” She is currently employed at the New York public relations firm RF|Binder.
From the Director | Paul Sawyer
When I tell strangers that the subject I teach at Cornell is English, or that I direct a writing program, most of them rush to apologize for their “bad” grammar. For them, “English” equals “writing” equals “grammar” (always something always done wrong, like table manners). By extension, I still run into alums and (occasionally) colleagues at Cornell who think of the writing program as the place where “correct” grammar is taught, once and for all—before the serious business of life, that is, before learning about great ideas, or preparing for medical school. As a student at Cornell, even if you’ve had no more than a single first-year writing seminar, you’ve already gone beyond these blinkered assumptions. A person majoring in English has no more of a corner on “good” writing than someone majoring in physics; nor is “writing” a skill separate from the rest of thinking and learning, a tedious form of training endured in order to make one’s ideas “correct.” Writing is really a code-word for the forms that verbal thinking can take—nothing more or less.
But there’s another cliché—about college writing assignments— that’s harder to shake off because it continues to mirror actual experience. In that view, a writing assignment is just that—a private task performed according to specs, finished once and for all, done well or poorly, a confidential transaction between student and teacher. When the grade enters the transcript (permanent), the papers go out with last year’s re-cycling (ephemeral). This, of course, is not how writing exists in the real world, where (if it’s worth doing at all) it circulates beyond the dyad of writer and occasion, as an argument about something with real stakes; as a stab at the truth; as an effort to inform, or inspire, or make a difference in readers. It forms a loop that’s not completed until it meets a reader—one, many—whose response becomes part of the continuing process.
What you’re looking at now is a set of examples of the best verbal thinking among Cornell undergraduates in the past year. Each essay has emerged from the tight occasion of the assignment, where the “eyes only” were the eyes of a single instructor, into the open world of communicative exchange, where the author has become an expert, with something to share. The process is open-ended, until you complete the loop as the reader. If any object could symbolize the work of the Knight Institute, it wouldn’t be a course catalogue or a pocket grammar, it would be this book—the book of outcomes, requirements. For that reason, the publication of Discoveries is a high point of our academic year. Start with a topic in your major, or with a subject you never knew existed—and place yourself in the essay as you read. The authors are your classmates; one of them may be you next year. Be sure to check out the bios at the end, because they will restore for you the human chain behind the printed pages—the teachers and classes and something about the lives of the writers. As for the grammar—it’s all good.
From the Editor | David Faulkner
The prize-winning pieces in this volume reflect the typical diversity of subject matter and approach in courses sponsored by the Knight Institute—First-Year Writing Seminars, Expository Writing, Writing in the Majors. (In fact, we would like to reiterate the announcement of a new prize that may well draw submissions from any and all of these classes, including those under the new University Courses Initiative: the Neil Lubow Prize, sponsored by the Cornell Program on Ethics and Public Life, for an essay on ethics.) These essays range from varieties of autobiographical reflection and experiments in voice and perspective, to more formal exercises in scientific synthesis and interpretation, to analytical readings of aesthetic artifacts. Laura Jones and Kevin Qiu present moving accounts of family life and family history, while Jenny McGough re-imagines the Bluebeard myth from an alternative point of view. Ruth-Anne Langan and Diana Hong, respectively, review the literature on potato famine and Parkinson’s disease; Victor Seet relates the psychology of religious experience to its underlying neurophysiology. Authors in our final group offer interpretive accounts of cultural objects as diverse as medieval sculpture (Lillian Sellati), photographic exhibitions (Shannon Berry), symphonic music (Detian Shi) and television advertising (Jane Mermel).
Perhaps the only factor that could unite such a broad array of written inquiry, across many disciplines, would be a kind of interdisciplinarity, a recognition that no isolated line of thought provides a complete explanation. These writers draw upon subsidiary perspectives beyond the nominal boundaries of fields or departments. It turns out that ineffable states of thought and emotion are grounded in the biochemistry of our brains and bodies; the material disease-effects of plant pathogens are exacerbated by demographics and economics; larger historical or ideological forces both enable and constrain individual lives and creative products. The totality of any moment or phenomenon comprises multiple threads, to tug upon any of which is to insinuate the whole figure in the carpet. And this, in a sense, may be one of the central, definitive epiphanies of university education itself, the dawn of an intuition so commonplace as to be a virtual cliché and yet—like the dawn itself—eternally refreshed: everything is connected. Human experience is overdetermined, and it is parallactic. To write with the concentrated attention displayed by these pieces can be to try on a voice or to admit a point of view that leads to analytic or synthetic insight.
This issue of Discoveries could not have seen the light without the drive and editorial acumen of Bruce Roebal. Andrew Weislogel of the Johnson Museum provided invaluable assistance with the images that accompany each essay; Wendy Martin ably shepherded the manuscripts through the design and publication phase. Thanks are due to all.