Lawrence Chen awarded Quebec’s Guy-Rocher prize for teaching

Chen is the first McGill professor to win the Prize
Photo credit: Alex Tran

Lawrence Chen, PhD, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been awarded the Guy-Rocher prize for excellence in undergraduate teaching at the university level from Quebec’s Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur.

He received the prize at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec on May 9, along with a cash reward of $15,000.

“Professor Chen has become one of our most ardent defenders of active learning and innovative teaching practices,” says Viviane Yargeau, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. “His achievements make him an ideal candidate for the Guy-Rocher Prize.”

Ongoing excellence

Chen began teaching at McGill in 2000. Since then he’s earned multiple teaching awards, including the McGill President’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Canada J. M. Ham Outstanding Engineering Educator Award.

“I have always loved teaching,” says Chen. “While it may sound very much like a cliché, I am simply driven by the desire to give students an environment to learn, grow, develop, and ultimately succeed.”

The award nomination praised Chen’s ability to create rich and rewarding student experiences, his commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), and for aiding the transition to online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also highlighted his work with ELATE (Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Engineering), an initiative Chen founded in 2017 to enhance and promote excellence in learning and teaching in the Faculty. He currently serves as its academic lead.

“Creating this community – where everyone shares knowledge and experiences with the ultimate objective of enhancing learning and teaching for all – is probably what I am most proud of,” he says.

The nomination was submitted by Laura Winer, PhD, Director of Teaching and Learning Services.

In good company

A fellow honouree at the May 9 ceremony was one of Chen’s protégés: Rhys Adams, a McGill alumnus, who served as a teaching assistant for Chen, received the Paul-Gérin-Lajoie prize for college teaching.

“I cannot emphasize enough the influence that Lawrence has had in my life over the years,” said Adams. “To this day, I seek his advice and learn from him.”

Chen supervised Adams’ master’s thesis. Today, Adams is a physics professor at Cégep Vanier College and an adjunct professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; he submitted a letter of support for Chen’s award nomination.

“Lawrence was and remains a role model for me,” said Adams in his letter. “I think McGill University needs more professors like him.”

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