article Spring 2024

 Letter from the Editor

To the readers of the Wisconsin Engineer Magazine – 

This is my seventh and final issue working with the amazing staff of the Wisconsin Engineer Magazine. I find myself in awe of how far this magazine has come in the seven semesters I spent as a member of this group of hard-working and brilliant people. Over the years, I conducted many interviews, worked with the heads of the writing department, and learned to improve my writing. But beyond learning the proper way to use a semicolon, the differences between an em dash and an en dash, or the best ways to write a snappy lead, I learned a new way to communicate. Through WEM, I learned to write about science and technology through telling stories. So here I would like to take this space to tell you a story.

A little over three years ago, during winter break of my freshman year, my mom sent me a post on Instagram that left a tremendous impact on the rest of my undergraduate career. She sent me a post by the Wisconsin Engineer Magazine, encouraging me to pursue the writing that she knew I missed from high school, especially as a freshman in engineering mechanics enrolled in all science, math, and engineering courses. 

As I worked through the first semesters of my engineering degree, I wrote stories about the isolation of life as a freshman during the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology that enabled me to conduct my research in astrophysics. As I worked through classes and drafts of articles, I realized that I could not see a future for myself as an engineer. Leaving behind the scholarships and certainty that came with my degree in engineering, I began pursuing a degree and career in astrophysics. But with my departure from engineering, the possibility of leaving WEM was never a thought I entertained. The friendships I began to develop and the skills I learned were far too great to abandon.

When I walk to school, I like to think about the stories I could write. I think about the different ways that I could arrange the words on a page to best convey the point I want to make. The ways that the sentences come together to build this bigger structure and the feelings transmitted through words on a page. As I rose into the role of a Writing Department Head, I worked to embed these ideas into the stories I edited. I worked to strengthen the Writing Department, recruiting new writers, and increasing the quality of the text filling our pages. I think this effort shows.

As I started my year as Editor-in-Chief, I knew my goals. I wanted to increase our staff numbers to a level that could sustain itself. I wanted to increase the quality of the other departments, of which I had no experience. I wanted to help return our magazine to printing issues four times a year. I am happy to say that I think I achieved these goals. 

The Wisconsin Engineer Magazine has changed my life. This magazine made me a more thoughtful and introspective person. This magazine taught me to communicate my opinions and passions in a way that others could clearly see them. WEM supported me through the loss of my father this past summer, embraced me as an astrophysicist leading their ranks, and entertained my ambitious ideas to better this magazine.

To the staff members of the Wisconsin Engineer Magazine – thank you. My journey with WEM would be nothing without you. You make this magazine something special. You bring life to the words, photos, and graphics we print on these pages. You make our presence in this world something to be proud of. 

To the current and future UW-Madison students picking up this magazine and considering joining our staff, I encourage you to come to a meeting and take on a story; you won’t regret it. And to the parents reading this magazine – continue encouraging your children to join organizations you know we will love. It might just change their life for the best.

Sincerely, Lucy Steffes

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