Some scientists end up where they are today because of a special trip, others attribute their interest to a curiosity sparked by time spent outdoors, and yet some end up on a path to science because they had teachers that encouraged them. Dan Fergus had two encouraging math teachers in middle school, both named Mr. Conner. The Mr. Conners were enthusiastic brothers excited about teaching. According to Dan, they worked hard to get their students interested in the subject – and as a result Dan’s math skills and interest improved from elementary to middle school.
The most memorable thing Dan recalls from his middle school science classes was the day a teacher taught his whole class how to realistically gobble like turkeys. Other than that, Dan’s science classes were boring to him. He laments, “I don’t think my teachers put a lot of effort into trying to make science exciting and showing us what science was really all about. My science classes at that point were just about remembering and parroting facts. I’m not a good reader or a good memorizer, so this wasn’t of much interest to me.”
Dan never thought about becoming a scientist and wasn’t sure what their day-to-day was actually like. He admits, “I imagine if you’d asked me at the time I would have guessed they wore lab coats and goggles while working the day away in labs with flasks of boiling chemicals or doing awful things to rats and mice.”