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Meet the Tutor - Sara Bourne, Ph.D.

Ph.D. - Science and Mathematics Education, UC Berkeley

M.S. - Chemistry, UC Berkeley

B.S. - Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

B.S. - Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Sara attended college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she completed B.S. degrees in both Chemistry and Psychology. Chemistry was not always Sara's favorite subject. In fact, she was terrified to enroll in the course for fear that she would fail. Chemistry seemed intimidating and she was nervous. Thanks to some amazing professors and teaching assistants, she gained confidence in the subject and decided to take "just one more course". She kept taking "just one more course" until she realized she had fallen in love with the subject and wanted to major in it.


Later in her college career, she had the opportunity to work as a chemistry teaching assistant in both general and organic chemistry laboratory and discussion sections. Teaching chemistry allowed Sara to understand the material in a new way, and gave her the opportunity to share her love of chemistry with hundreds of students. She loved figuring out how to make chemistry accessible to each of her students, and giving them confidence in their ability to succeed. Sara loved teaching chemistry so much that she decided to pursue the subject in graduate school.

Sara attended graduate school at UC Berkeley, where she completed her M.S. degree in Chemistry, and her Ph.D. in Science and Mathematics Education. During her time at UC Berkeley, she taught various chemistry laboratory and discussion sections, and helped to design and implement a new section of introductory general chemistry for students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Sara also started the Teacher Scholar Program at UC Berkeley, which provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to teach alongside graduate student instructors. Sara developed and taught the training course to prepare the undergraduate instructors for their teaching assignments. Sara's dissertation work investigated differences in discourse between each type of instructor and the students, and the effect of discourse and instructor type on students' chemistry understanding.

After graduation, Sara began working at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District as an Air Quality Chemist. She wanted to apply her chemistry and education backgrounds in a non-academic setting where she could serve her community in a meaningful way. She enjoyed her time at the Air District, but ultimately wanted to return to her original passion - teaching chemistry.


Tutoring allows Sara to teach in one-on-one and group settings, and to create personalized learning plans for each of her clients. She is excited to collaborate with her clients to make chemistry accessible and understandable and to help them reach their individual goals.


When Sara isn't tutoring, she enjoys hiking, running, and spending time with her husband, kids, and cats. She looks forward to working with you!

Teaching Philosophy

Learning occurs through talking, through consistent practice, and through specific, meaningful examples. I believe that discussion is vital to chemistry learning, and that the student should be an active participant in the discussion. I view myself as a partner to my students as opposed to an instructor in the traditional sense of the word. I provide expertise in chemistry and in educational methodology, but my student is the expert on their own life experiences, the ways learning has worked for them in the past, and the specific goals they would like to reach. I believe that chemistry can be accessible to every student regardless of their background or past experience in the subject. 

Many complain that chemistry is "all memorization." Of course, there are components of every topic that should be committed to memory, but it is my belief that, if certain basic ideas are understood, the rest can be solved through reasoning and problem solving. I will help my students to develop their problem solving and chemistry reasoning skills so that they are equipped to tackle any chemistry problem and work through it in a thorough and logical way. Practicing these skills through many different types of examples will help students to see the different ways concepts can be tested, and the different ways information can be used to solve various types of problems. 

In my tutoring sessions, I will begin by getting to know each student and where they are in comparison to where they would like to be in their chemistry understanding. From there, we can develop an individualized learning plan designed to meet their goals. I hope to make chemistry exciting, accessible, and understandable to all of my students, and to show them how chemistry is relevant in everyone's daily life.

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