Peer Tutor Spotlight – Sunny Gong

Photo source: Sunny Gong

Hi – I’m Sunny and I’m from Oakville, Ontario. I am currently a fifth year student majoring in biology, and this term I’m a Peer Tutor in the BIOL 121 course.

What do you most enjoy about being a peer tutor?

I really love interacting with the students and answering questions they have when they come to office hours. A lot of students ask very interesting questions that I haven’t thought of before, which shows me that they are enthusiastic about the course. It’s nice to see them reaching out and taking initiative for their own learning. It’s also been really fun to have that person-to-person interaction and to actually meet people in real life now that we’re back in person again and not on Zoom.

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

This job has allowed me to see what it’s like to be on the teaching side of a course and to experience what it’s like to run a course. This has opened my eyes to what profs and TAs experience and made me more empathetic towards them.

It has also enhanced my experience as a student. As I see what other students are going through and think about how I can best help them, I’ve been able to use the teaching experience to enrich my own learning. I also feel like it’s helped me make great connections with the prof and TA in the class, and I’ve been able to get advice from them and hear about what it’s like to do research and work in academia.

How has your unique background influenced your peer tutoring experience?

I’ve taken this course before as a student, so when I’m helping students with their midterm or they’re asking questions, I understand where they’re coming from and what they’re probably experiencing. I’ve been there before, so I feel like I’m well positioned to give them advice and to use my own experience to help them figure it out, like this is what worked for me, maybe it’ll work for you. It feels good to pass down my personal experiences to other students.

What opportunities relating to teaching and learning have you been a part of?

I really enjoy teaching and I have a lot of teaching experience in the past. For example, I’ve tutored high school students in math and science, and I worked as a lifeguard instructor back in high school. But the best teaching experience that I’ve had as an undergraduate is with the Student Directed Seminar (SDS) program at UBC, which allows undergraduate students to create their own seminar course and then lead it. If there is a topic that you’re interested in that UBC doesn’t currently offer a course for, you can apply to join this program and facilitate your own seminar.

In my case, I wanted to explore the topic of urban evolution and ecology, so I applied to create a SDS course called Evolution and Urban Environments. It’s been a super enriching and rewarding experience to have the free reign to design a course around this topic and to have full creative control over the experience. I was able to come up with the course syllabus, design all of the learning activities, do a lot of in-depth research, and read a lot of papers on this topic that I’m interested in. The peer-based learning experience has been radically different from the usual teacher-led classes I’ve taken. Everybody in the seminar gets a chance to teach each other and learn together. It’s a very democratic space and it’s super fun.

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

I’m doing a Directed Studies research project with Dr. Michelle Tseng’s lab in the Biodiversity Research Centre. My project is looking at how microplastics in the environment can affect the population and growth of the water invertebrate Daphnia pulex which is commonly known as a water flea. In particular, we’re looking at how exposure to microplastics impacts their population size and growth and reproduction. I have a lot more work to do on the area, but it’s something that I’m also really excited about and interested in.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy, which I love to read and watch. Recently I’ve been watching the sci-fi TV show The Expanse, which is based off a book series and is crazy good. Also, the Dune movie that came out last year was amazing. I haven’t done quite as much reading lately – I feel like it’s hard to read while you’re in school because class takes up so much of your time!

What is a fun fact about you that people may not know?

I’m also the Education Coordinator for the UBC Vancouver chapter of the Wildlife Society. In this role I’m responsible for connecting with guest speakers and organizing any educational opportunities, including field trips for club members.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Spam prevention powered by Akismet