Peer Tutor Spotlight – Ruby Burns

Photo source: Ruby Burns

Hello! I’m Ruby, and I’m in my third year in the Biology program working towards an Honours degree in marine biology. I’m from Mississauga, ON – you may notice that there are no oceans there, which is why I came all this way to study them!

This is my first term as a peer tutor, and this year I’m a peer tutor for BIOL 121. Outside of my own classes and peer tutoring, you can find me on campus volunteering at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. It’s something I started doing back in first year, and I am so happy to be back after lockdown!

What do you enjoy most about being a peer tutor?

Not to repeat what every other peer tutor has said before me, but it always is an amazing feeling being the one to help a student understand a concept they previously were stuck on. My own ‘office’ hours are really fun to hold, and seeing something finally ‘click’ for a student really is the best part of the job. It really is great to form connections with first years as a fellow undergraduate student, and bring back my own memories of what it’s like to be just starting the university experience.

What has being a peer tutor brought to your undergraduate experience?

I think one of the biggest things I’ve gotten out of peer tutoring so far is a better idea of how courses are run and the perspective of the teaching team. I recently had to make slides and practice questions for a midterm review, and I think the thought process behind coming up with questions can help me study for my own upcoming midterms (eek!). Also, I actually feel a lot less nervous going to my own profs to ask questions now that I know what it’s like being the one answering them!

How has your unique background influenced your peer tutoring experience?

I’ve spent the past few summers working as a camp counsellor, both online and offline. Working with children is always very challenging and very rewarding, and it’s really interesting to see how certain aspects carry over to an older audience. The better you can explain concepts at their very simplest, the better you understand them yourself, whether that’s for kids who are just learning what DNA is or first year university genetics! Most importantly, seeing the passion kids and university students alike can bring to subjects like biology, and sparking that passion in others, is why I love opportunities like peer tutoring.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love playing music, whether that be violin, guitar, or drums. I actually just got an acoustic guitar, which consistently distracts me from studying (but don’t tell the students I’m tutoring about that… or my profs!). I also like to draw, paint (especially frogs), crochet, tap dance, and wander through Pacific Spirit Park. I’m pretty sure a significant chunk of my phone storage is taken up by photos of all the mushrooms and slugs I come across on my forest walks. 🙂

What are your plans following graduation?

I hope to go into grad school and do research in marine biology, though I’m currently having a tough time choosing whether that means zoology or botany. Last year my invertebrate zoology and non-vascular plants courses were my favourite, and I love the idea of studying either marine invertebrates (having been obsessed with sea slugs for a few years now) or seaweed! Either way, I plan on staying by the coast… sorry Ontario!

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