Peer Tutor Spotlight – Arell Bryski

Photo source: Arell Bryski

I’m from Vancouver and I’m working towards a degree in Honours Biology. I just finished my first semester peer tutoring for BIOL 121.

Outside of school, I’m involved in the Science Undergraduate Society, the UBC Genetics Club, and I’m excited to begin my co-op term this summer as a Clinical Research Assistant in the Hematology Division of Vancouver General Hospital.

Recently, I presented at the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference, and my group was given the REX Life Sciences award for our project examining miRNAs in Renal Cell Carcinoma.

What has been an interesting outcome of your peer tutoring experience?

I think I have learned how to ask better questions! First years have so many questions to ask. As I’ve gotten deeper into my degree there are some scientific principles I just accept as a fact, but first years really taught me to question anything and everything! It’s changed the way I understand biology and experimental approaches.

What is something you are currently doing at UBC that you are excited about?

I am really excited to begin working on my honours thesis. I had a course this year on the principles of biological research, and it’s been an extremely useful course to understand how research is undertaken from the conception of a hypothesis to the publishing of a paper. I am just entering some of the early planning stages of my project, but I plan to focus my project around the genetics of Caenorhabditis elegans.

What do you most enjoy about being a peer tutor?

I’ve enjoyed seeing students reach that “Aha!” moment during office hours because oftentimes they aren’t even that far off from the answer, and they just need the odd hint or two. This year, I’ve had a great time working one-on-one with students who frequented my office hours, and I got to watch how their critical thinking process improved over the year. As a student myself, I’ve also found it rewarding to teach students concepts that I struggled with initially because I can teach them in a way that worked for me when I was having difficulty.

How has your unique background influenced your peer tutoring experience?

I was definitely a student who had to work to improve my study skills, and I went through a lot of trial and error when it came to my own studying techniques. I think my initial struggle really helps me put students’ queries into perspective because half the time when students ask me questions, I can distinctly remember thinking the same thing 2 years ago and I know where their confusion is coming from. I also know that for me a picture is worth a thousand words, so I try to draw things out for explanations whenever possible.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I really love to bake, and I’ve been using some of my free time at home to learn new recipes and improve upon my previous bakes. Some of the things I’ve made previously include cheesecakes, egg tarts, and mousses. My favourite thing to bake is the classic chocolate chip cookie.

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