Student welfare and wellbeing
Studying at university should be both a challenge and an enjoyable experience. We want to encourage and support our students in being mindful of their wellbeing and, if necessary, to use the welfare support services provided by the Department and the College. The Physics department aims to make our welfare and wellbeing support as transparent and accessible as possible.
The Physics Department has several staff members who students can turn to when seeking help with both academic and personal issues. Every student has a Personal Tutor whose role is to support their undergraduate tutees. If your Personal Tutor cannot help directly, they will be able to provide information on how to get assistance. In addition, we have a group of people on Level 3 of the Blackett Laboratory who have extensive experience in supporting students with a very wide variety of course related, health and personal issues, some of them very complex.
All undergraduate physics teaching staff have a role in supporting student welfare and we work together to provide the best support that we can. Different members of the team offer different skills and have different responsibilities.
- The Senior Tutor, Dr. Ingo Mueller-Wodarg, has overall responsibility for your welfare during your time as an undergraduate. His physics research specialism is in the study of planet atmospheres and other bodies in the solar system and he has a great deal of higher education physics teaching and pastoral care experience.
- The Disabilities Officer (Mery Fajardo) is your first port of call to arrange alternative exam arrangements should you have a disability. You should contact Mery to discuss your additional learning requirements, health or mental health issues. These are her areas of expertise and she will be able to advise on what support arrangements can be offered by the Department, the wider College and the NHS.
- The Student Liaison Officer, Dr. Yasmin Andrew’s primary role is to help students have a positive experience while studying Physics at Imperial College. She can help you develop your study and time management skills as she has expertise in physics learning and teaching methods. Her research area is in magnetically confined fusion, and she has a good understanding of the challenges faced by physics students studying at a top university.
- The Undergraduate Education Manager (Derryck Stewart) facilitates the work of other members of the team by making sure they have what they need to support students. He is also the lead administrator for the student success software, Starfish, in the Physics Department.
The Senior Tutor, Disability Officer and Student Liaison Officer are all available to you should you wish to discuss any problems or issues that are affecting your studies. They will all make time to speak to you to find out what support you require and would be available to you. If all you need is someone to talk to, they are always happy to do that. However, they are not counsellors and they will direct you to the correct support services, including counselling or therapy, if it is clear that is what you need.
If you have issues with your Personal or Academic Tutors, it should be raised with the Senior Tutor in the first instance. In very exceptional circumstances, a change of Personal Tutor / Academic Tutorial group may be considered.
In addition to support within the Department, it is possible to see advice from services and members of staff elsewhere in the College, including the Faculty Senior Tutor, the Faculty Student Wellbeing Advice Team, the College Counselling and Mental Health Advice Service and your Hall Warden. Further information is available on the Faculty wellbeing support webpage and the College's Student Support Zone.
We have also developed a departmental wellbeing strategy jointly with physics students to highlight areas of our work and to identify areas for improvement.
Support for students with disabilities
Circle of Care and Starfish
In Physics we operate a “Circle of Care” approach to student support and confidentiality. This means that a very small number of Physics Department staff share information about your case, in order to provide you with the best support possible. If you want something to remain confidential with the person you are speaking to, then you should say that at the time. Your request for confidentiality will always be respected. However, in certain cases, by only informing one person in the department, you will be limiting the support that the Department and College can offer you.
In the Physics Department the Circle of Care comprises the following roles:
- Your Personal Tutor
- Senior Tutor
- Student Liaison Officer
- Disabilities Officer
- UG Education Manager
- And in very exceptional circumstances, the College’s Director of Student Services.
We apply the Circle of Care to the information we share on Starfish. It enables us to monitor your progress as a team and we are better able to provide you with support, because we have access to the information we need. Some examples of information shared on Starfish include; whether you get alternative exam arrangements, dates you have met with your personal tutor or whether you have applied for mitigating circumstances.
Starfish is also the system where we record your attendance in lab, tutorials, project meetings and occasionally in lectures. Your Personal Tutor, the Senior Tutor, the Student Liaison Officer or the UG Education Manager will contact you if there are concerns about your attendance record. A drop in attendance is often a significant signal that a student is struggling with some aspect of their life that is impacting on their academic work.
Students are also able to log on to Starfish. You can see shared notes and arrange an appointment with a member of staff.
Some key roles in the Physics Department who are involved in undergraduate teaching, but not part of your Circle of Care:
- The Director of Undergraduate Studies
- The Examinations Co-ordinator
- The Examinations and Information Officer
Mental Health First Aiders
We have several Mental Health First Aiders in the UG Teaching Team:
- Mery Fajardo
- Kayleigh Murphy
- Amy Cripps-Mahajan
There are other MHFA trained staff in the department who are listed here: MHFA Physics Department poster. Look out for the posters around Blackett Laboratory.
You can find out more about Imperial College’s MHFA programme here: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/health-and-wellbeing/mental-health/mental-health-first-aid/
Students may suffer serious and unforeseen circumstances during their time at university that adversely affect their ability to complete an assessment task and/or their performance in the assessment. All students should take the time to read and understand the College’s mitigating circumstances policy that can be found on that can be found on the Academic Governance website. Students who are unsure about submitting a Mitigating Circumstances form should consult with their Personal Tutor, the Student Liaison Officer, the Disabilities Officer, or the Senior Tutor.
Key aspects of the policy are:
- The Mitigating Circumstances form must be submitted within ten working days of the assessment, although there are opportunities for late submission.
- All claims must be supported by independent documentary evidence. Only in exceptional cases should a student self-certificate.
- Please use the correct form
- We will treat the information provided on your MC form as confidential and staff knowledge of your circumstances will be on a need to know basis.
- Chronic conditions are normally mitigated via the Alternative Examination Arrangements procedures. Students are encouraged and supported by the Department to seek appropriate Alternative Examination Arrangements.
- The Senior Tutor emails students at various points during the academic year to remind them about the MC forms, policy and the dates of the two full Mitigating Circumstances Board meetings.
- The Mitigating Circumstances Board (MCB) is the meeting in which a small number of staff discuss student mitigating circumstances forms and supporting evidence.
The MCB decides on whether a student’s MCs are accepted or not. The MCB also decides on what mitigation should be awarded. Should we accept a student’s MC form and evidence, the most likely outcomes are a Full Credit Resit (FCR) for an affected exam or an extension for coursework assessment. The MCB does not award mark uplifts as an accepted MC claim outcome.
The MCB comprises the following departmental roles:
- Head of Physics Department
- Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Senior Tutor
- Examinations Coordinator
- Undergraduate Education Manager
- Disabilities Officer
- Student Liaison Officer
The MCB meets in full twice a year, once to discuss Year 3 and 4 MC forms and once to discuss Year 1 and 2 MC forms. A sub-MCB will meet frequently during the year to give timely responses to any MC forms. A sub-MCB must have at least three members, from the list above, to be quorate.
The deferral of exams is only considered in exceptional circumstances. More information on exam deferral can be found here:
Alternative Exam Arrangements
While we want physics students to be challenged whilst they are studying at Imperial College, we are keen to help all students to overcome any difficulties they face due to additional or alternative learning requirements. It is of the utmost importance to us that physics students fulfil their academic potential. To that end, it is important that students let us know about any disability, specific learning difficulty or health problem (including mental health issues) as early as possible, so we can provide the necessary advice and support. Some people don’t think of themselves as having a disability, but amongst the issues that we deal with regularly are:
- Specific learning differences (such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, AD[H]D)
- Autistic spectrum condition
- Hearing impairments
- Mental health conditions (such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression)
- Chronic medical conditions (such as epilepsy, arthritis, diabetes, Crohn’s disease)
- Eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse and addiction
- Physical disabilities or mobility impairments
- Visual impairments
The Physics Department’s Disabilities Officer, Mery Fajardo, is the first point of contact for students with any additional learning requirements and chronic health (including mental health) conditions. She is responsible for securing agreement for extra time in exams, arranging alternative exam sessions, providing notetaking, transcription and mentoring services. She also ensures that student infrastructure needs (e.g. cameras, sound systems) are met within the Department. She works closely with the Senior Tutor, the Student Liaison Officer, the College’s Disabilities Advisory Service (DAS) and all teaching staff. Mery has an open-door policy, however, if she if isn’t available when you stop by, please email or call her to arrange an appointment.
The College Disability Advisory Service (DAS) has offices on Level 5 of the Sherfield Building and may be reached by email or by telephone on 020-7594 8935. DAS staff can advise and help students with a wide range of additional learning issues. More information on disabilities and exams can be found on the College DAS page on Alternative Exam Arrangements.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
As well as physical ill-health, mental health problems can affect any of us at any time. It is important to be mindful that anxiety and stress can become a routine part of life during your undergraduate studies, but if persistent can lead to serious health problems. It is also important to identify the source of stress, which can, for example, be linked to time management, procrastination or study skills issues. The Student Liaison Officer can offer you a weekly or fortnightly appointment to help you with all these issues. In addition, you may be referred to College Services such as the Study Skills sessions offered by DAS or the College’s Centre for Academic English.
If you are experiencing a period of any type of mental ill-health, there are several options are available to you for support and help in the Department, the College and NHS.
As a first point of contact, you may also want to talk to your personal tutor, Student Liaison Officer, Senior Tutor, or Disability Officer for advice. You could also speak to one of the Department’s Mental Health First Aiders. They may recommend that you consider consulting your GP, practice nurse, counsellor or therapist.
Professional counselling and therapy are available through the NHS; to access these services you need to make an appointment with your GP. The College also provides talking therapy through its student counselling service. This is meant as an interim service while you are waiting for an NHS appointment or therapy to start. The Student Counselling Service is located on Level 4 of the Sherfield Building is independent of the College academic structure. All registered students of Imperial College London can make an appointment to meet with a Student Counsellor in the service. The service is free and confidential, more information can be found here: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/counselling/.
It is important to note that the College Counselling Service is currently experiencing a very high demand for consultations, resulting in waiting times of 4 to 8 weeks. The Counselling Service will always offer you the first available appointment they have.
If your situation is urgent, please make an emergency appointment to see your doctor.
Imperial College Health Centre hold a Triage clinic held Monday to Friday from 08.30 until 10.00 am which is available for all students registered at the South Kensington Campus.
A comprehensive list of other sources of help, including crisis lines, can be found here: http://www.imperial.ac.uk/counselling/other-sources-of-help/
Other places of support
- Support for Women
If for any reason, you wish to seek advice from someone other than your personal tutor there are four members of staff who act as alternative departmental advisors for female students. These advisors are listed below, three of them are women, and they are all happy to deal with female students’ issues:
Our alternative advisors are:
Prof Lesley Cohen (Blackett 912, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr Dave Clements (Blackett 1011, email@example.com)
Prof Ji-Seon Kim (Blackett 909, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dr Yvonne Unruh (Blackett 1114, email@example.com)
- Support for LGBTQ+ Students
If for any reason, you wish to seek advice from someone other than your personal tutor there are members of staff who form the Physics Ally Network who act as alternative departmental advisors for LGBTQ+ physics students. These advisors are listed here, and they have all been trained to deal and help with pastoral and academic issues, specific to LGBTQ+ student community. They can also be identified by the rainbow Ally sticker on their door.
- Support for International Students
If for any reason, you wish to seek advice from someone other than your personal tutor there are members of staff who act as alternative contacts for international students. These advisors are listed here, and they have all been trained to deal and help with specific pastoral and academic issues faced by the international student community.
- Student support funds
It is likely that your time at Imperial College will be the first occasion on which you have had almost complete control over your finances and it is well known that this is not always easy. If financial disaster, not of your own making, strikes, the College has hardship funds for home and overseas students. Your Personal Tutor, the UEM or the Senior Tutor are the first port of call in these circumstances, and the earlier you address your problems, the greater the chance of finding a solution. Please visit Student Finance to find out more about the fund.
For information on the other types of support available to you through the College, including crime, sexual violence, harassment or bullying, please visit: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/student-support-zone/support/
For information on the College's mobile app, SafeZone, that allows staff and students to directly contact Security in case of an emergency please visit; https://www.imperial.ac.uk/estates-facilities/security/safezone/