TA Spotlight – Elsa Cyr

On a BC Ferry (Photo source: Elsa Cyr)

Hello, I’m Elsa (she/her)! I am from Toronto, but moved to Vancouver for my undergraduate degree in Biology at UBC. I am currently finishing up my Master’s degree in the Department of Zoology.




I am co-supervised by the (Ben) Matthews lab and the Gordon lab, working on characterizing the neurons involved in taste perception in mosquitoes. As part of my research, I have developed a protocol to look at live changes in activity of the neurons while delivering a stimulus.

Mosquito larva with neuron fluorescence (Photo source: Elsa Cyr)

During my degree, I have also had the pleasure of TAing BIOL 200 (Fundamentals of Cell Biology), BIOL 372 (Principles of Neurobiology II), and BIOL 336 (Fundamentals of Evolutionary Biology).

What do you most enjoy about being a TA?

Definitely interacting with the students. It is extremely rewarding to see them understand course material they might have been previously struggling with. I love coming up with different way to frame and explain material in a clear way. My favourite moments are when I see that something clicked, and that the student has grasped the material.

What has being a TA brought to your graduate studies experience?

Although the workload can sometimes be a little overwhelming, I have enjoyed TAing alongside my research. Being a TA has given me the opportunity to think of fundamental material in a different way. Seeing as I have mostly taught introductory courses, I have been able to go back to material I may not have thought of since my own undergrad. This has really given me a chance to step back and appreciate the fundamentals of biology and of what I am studying. Being a TA has also given me the opportunity to switch gears for a few hours a week, a well-needed change of pace at times.

How has your unique background influenced your TA experience?

Seeing as I’ve completed my undergrad at UBC, I have previously been a student in most of the course that I’ve TA’ed. Because of this, I have been able to draw from my own experience as a student in these courses to try and figure out the best way to approach material with students. I usually try to think back to what made me understand certain material, and how I can frame the content of the course so that students can grasp it. I try to build up the complex concepts in a way that is easily accessible. I am always open to students coming to see me if they are struggling and talking through material with them one-on-one.

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

In terms of TAing, I recently had the opportunity to transfer in-class material into online material. With online content being more prominent now, we have to find new ways to make it engaging. This term, along with a couple other TAs, I had the opportunity to transfer a tutorial into an online format. This required thinking about the best way to present the material to a student that wouldn’t have a TA to answer live questions while they are working through a worksheet. It was extremely rewarding to hear from students that this material helped them understand concepts.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Gabriola Island, BC (Photo source: Elsa Cyr)

I love travelling around, and especially exploring my surroundings. When I’m not too busy, I try to take as many day or weekend trips as I can. I am always open to recommendations on where to go next! I love the beautiful sunsets, the mountains, and the ocean. When it’s nice outside, I like to go hiking or to the beach, and when it’s raining (as it often is), I like cooking, reading, or watching a good movie. I try to look for calming activities that will help me disconnect from my work.

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