Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Award-winning teacher believes in blackboard and chalk

[Originally published October 21, 2011 on Concordia NOW]Adaptive approach led to prestigious teaching award for Concordia's Lyes Kadem

Concordia NOW featured profiles of outstanding educators — people making a difference in the classroom and within in the Concordia community.

If you phone Lyes Kadem’s office, you probably won’t get his voice mail. Kadem, who received the Concordia President’s Excellence in Teaching Award (New Faculty) earlier this year, is nearly always at his desk — unless, of course, he’s in the classroom.
Lyes Kadem | Photo by Concordia University

Kadem, who has been teaching at Concordia since 2006, is the first-year program director for mechanical engineering, and an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Educated in Algeria, France, and here in Quebec where he did a PhD in Bioengineering at Université Laval and a Post-Doc at the renowned Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal, Kadem says it’s the environment and ambience that he enjoys most about Concordia. “You can find people from everywhere in the world,” he explains. “It’s a true melting pot, and I really like that.”

In addition to his teaching duties, Kadem conducts research as the director of the Laboratory of Cardiovascular Fluid Dynamics. The lab researches the cardiovascular system from an engineering aspect, using engineered cardiac simulators. The effort necessary to develop simulators, “shows us how highly efficient the human body is – how it’s been optimized,” Kadem says. “We need two pumps and a large Plexiglas structure to try to duplicate the heart.”

The lab also examines the parameters used to diagnose cardiovascular diseases to develop new diagnostic methods based on physical concepts. This is being specifically applied to valvular diseases and prosthetic heart valves so far.

“Doctors now use ultrasound to evaluate the speed of blood passing through the heart valves,” Kadem explains. “In our lab, we can take out the variability due to patient features, such as age or sex. This allows us to correct and suggest ways of improving the specificity and sensitivity of the tests.”
Sending a person who is actually healthy for more testing is known as a false positive. When this happens too often, a test is said to have poor specificity.

“But false negatives, when a sick person is actually told he or she is fine and to ‘go home,’ are more serious,” Kadem adds, explaining that it signals that a test has poor sensitivity.

As for his teaching philosophy, Kadem says, “I can summarize my thoughts on teaching in one line: a piece of chalk, a blackboard, and to make it simple, like my teachers taught me.”

He understands the increasing use of technology, and that making information free and open-sourced — available in the form of YouTube e-course videos, for example — “is very democratic.” However, he remains convinced that students appreciate and benefit most from the instruction and interaction that can only happen in person. He supports his stance with reference to a recent study that indicated 80 per cent of the surveyed students preferred to be in an actual classroom with a teacher.

Kadem says teaching with notes and a blackboard always leads to new ways of explaining a concept. “New ideas come up, sometimes suggested by the students themselves,” he says.

“It’s hard to follow the process of deriving equations with PowerPoint,” he adds. “It’s more of a discussion – there’s more give and take.”

His notes-and-blackboard approach can result in him completely revamping his lectures on the same topic from one semester to the next.

“That’s also better for me,” he says, “because it keeps things fresh for me, too.”

Related links:

Lyes Kadem’s biography
Faculty website
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering


  1. Dr. Kadem,
    If you ever read this, I hope you realize what an influential person you truly are. I graduated from Concordia with a bachelor's in Civil Engineering, and I would go back to Concordia any day just to take Thermodynamics I with you again. Although I am working in the municipal engineering field now, your memory came across my mind recently and I decided to Google your name. You are a blessing to Concordia's engineering faculty. I will always remember your beautiful lectures. All the best,


  2. Dr. Kadem,
    Im so grateful that i had an amazing professor like you. You changed my life in a way i would never imagine, for that i will be eternally grateful to you :D

    Wishing you all the happiness in the world!