What does a scientist look like to a kindergartener? What about a high school student? Are you envisioning the stereotypical cartoon scientist with the lab coat, and crazy hair?

Terry Johnson, a bioengineering lecturer at UC Berkeley and the featured speaker at PiE’s 2013 Kickoff, wants to break the stereotype of scientists and engineers being “dangerous and imbalanced” for young students: “Kids don’t know what scientists and engineers actually do.”

__He stresses the importance of exposing students to real scientists: “Society isn’t good at giving people idea of what scientists really do.”

Johnson advises interested students to take as many math and science courses in high school, and to take advantage of resources provided for high school students interested in STEM (like PiE!). His biggest piece of advice, however, is that “you don’t have to become a different person to be in the science field. A lot of people associate scientists and engineers to some kind of crazy genius. And we’re not. I’m not a genius.” In fact, Johnson spills a secret: he’s not good at math.

How can that be? Well, according to Johnson, it doesn’t matter. He states that it’s not about being a person to whom STEM comes natural. Rather, it’s about finding solutions to problems that you’re passionate about.

“Typically scientists and engineers are motivated to make the world a better place, or to understand something about the world that has never been understood before. If you are passionate about a particular kind of problem, that is more important than how easy or difficult you find the classes in that discipline.”