And the 2017 SACAs Winners Are...

The 2017 Student Academic Choice Awards (SACAs) Ceremony was held in the Union Concert Hall on the evening of Monday 15 May.

The SACAs are Imperial College Union's flagship event for empowering students to recognise, reward and celebrate excellence amongst College staff.

This year, we received a record-breaking 831 nominations, with over 600 students nominating over 450 member of College staff. Over 100 students and members of staff attended to find out which of the 48 shortlistees would become a SACAs trophy holder. 

Each award had a video testimonial from students who nominated the shortlisted candidates, speaking about the impact and difference they had made.

The winners were as follows:



Prof Jenny Nelson, Physics

When writing this nomination I found it difficult to even know where to start, there being so many areas in which Jenny goes above and beyond.  I came to Jenny at a time when my faith in myself and the scientific process was at all time low.  She believed in me when I didn't. I am under no illusions that were it not for finding Jenny I would not have got as far as I have.

Most PhD students only ever experience one supervisor and thus it's easy to fail to gather perspective about what constitutes a bare minimum and what constitutes excellence in supervision. Being a member of the TSM-CDT and seeing others' experiences, and having my own experience with other supervisors, I feel I am well placed to judge this. She easily ticks the minimum requirements of being available, open and able to proactively manage the development needs of all of her students. More than this she exceeds these requirements, fighting and caring for her students using her time and energy for pastoral and practical support beyond the norm. This is evidenced by the sheer number of students who come to back to her to do a PhD and the number of relationships she has maintained well beyond the PhD.

She redefines what it means to be a supervisor; I find it difficult to imagine how another person more deserving of title Best Supervisor is even possible.



Mr Martin Holloway, Bioengineering

I don't think I can adequately put into words how much I owe Mr Holloway for his support last summer and this year. I know for a fact that many of my other classmates would agree with me. He always lets us know that he is there to talk about any issue that is wrong whether it be family grievance, exam stress, health  name it. He always makes you feel like he is listening and his concern is never forced. He genuinely cares about each and every student and seeks to help them in any way he can and will accommodate them and make their university lives easier within his full capability.

He is not only the best tutor, but one of the best humans that I know.



Julia Sun, Bioengineering

She is always there to help people outside from our tutorial classes. We get every week an update with a summary of what we have done and how we can improve in the subject. She stays also after the class has  finished to make sure everyone has understood everything. Once she stayed 30 min longer till me and my friends all understood what was happening in the problem sheet. 

She also gave me motivation to work harder for the subject and actually making it enjoyable.



Prof Silvestre Pinho, Aeronautics

His lectures are well-structured, clear and he always makes sure we follow his lectures, understanding every aspect. He is also energetic and has a wonderful sense of humour. Thus, the lectures are not only interesting, but also entertaining. One of the best things about him as a lecturer is that he is very approachable. He is always keen on meeting students even outside his office hour. His flexibility is also extremely important to mention. Firstly, whenever he receives feedback about his way of teaching, he makes immediate changes to make sure the raised issues are solved. Secondly, he is able to explain things differently in order to match everyone's way of understanding.  This is something we very seldom see from other lecturers. Finally, he keeps things simple. Often, lecturers teach entire chapters full of abstract content without explaining why it is actually important, but Professor Pinho always drops small pieces of information reminding us about the significance of the current material. Further to his teaching, he shows us his cutting-edge research in composites, that makes everyone even more intrigued in structural failure and material crack propagation. Besides, he is the coordinator of our year team project, L2 Applications, where he encourages everyone to have innovative design and he also gives advice on how to improve teamwork.


All in all, Professor Pinho's clear and flexible methods are combined with a hint of humour and show great commitment in teaching, that, I believe perfectly represents the picture of Imperial College we are proud of: modern, professional teaching from a cutting-edge researcher.



Anderson Santos, Mathematics

Since Anderson has become part of the Maths department, everything he is a part of has improved a hundred fold. He has made all the tedious, administrative tasks a lot easier by implementing a digital system that has been needed for what feels like the last 20 years, making the whole process of using grant money more transparent and easy to use. Anderson always has an open ear for any problems students might encounter and helps solve these in a genuine, caring way that makes all the difference. It's always a pleasure to interact with him, even when the occasion might not be very cheerful. To top it off, his emails are pleasant, informative and to the point, making sure everyone is informed about both the academic rules and regulations, but also about social events going on in the department. I wish he had been around from when I started my PhD, and I am sure he will achieve even more in the coming years!



Dr Bradley Ladewig, Chemical Engineering

Brad is the most innovative lecturer I've come across. For Nuclear Chemical Engineering, He somehow convinced the department to give a lot of money to set up a 4K camera in order to live stream lectures on Facebook. Allowing students to access lecture content on a platform that they're naturally on most of the day allows for a guaranteed exposure to his teaching material. Students can easily comment questions if they're watching but can't be in the lecture theatre and they'll be answered by the lecturer in real time when he reads the comment. This is a massive opportunity for opening the lecture to the world beyone Imperial. 

Problem class solutions aren't written up but rather recorded on Youtube and linked on the blackboard site, allowing students to engage with content much better rather than reading text of a screen. 

Brad's methods for innovation aren't just limited to technology however. The class has mixed students from all levels of teaching (Meng, MSc, BSc) and all kinds of departments, yet we all know each other which is very rare but is a direct consequence of his 'name tag' policy. Brad also encourages icebreakers during every lecture for each student to get to know the other, creating a real sense of environment and companionship which enhances learning tremendously and makes the lectures a lot more enjoyable. It cleverly also provides for a break from the content of the lecture while allowing for the whole cohort to get to know each other better. It's a much more modern take on teaching, as he calls out our name to answer a question and it's a much more interactive environment than most lectures..



Dr Christopher John, Department of Medicine

Although Dr Chris John is rarely the marker of my assignments, he is the tutor I always ask for help whenever I have questions related to the feedback i get. He is extremely busy, being the Head of the course, but he always finds the time to provide as detailed feedback as possible and within very short time (the record is 5 hours!!!). His feedback is not only helpful in letting you know how your performance was, but also in providing suggestions on how to improve (i.e. what could have been done for a higher mark - everybody wants to know this), which not many staff members include. I honestly think that his constructive comments and ideas on how to improve helped me develop better science skills over the past years.

He clearly, publicly announces after his teaching that he is there to help if anyone has questions about their work or needs suggestions or clarifications about their assignment feedback. As the Head of the course he always emphasises how important feedback is to the teaching staff (and students too - most of us fill in SOLE). There has been a clear improvement in the quality of feedback given to students in this course since he was appointed as Head. And when this is not the case, he takes matters into his hands and makes sure everyone is happy. 



Dr Peter Fitch, Earth Science and Engineering

Pete is like no other teacher I have ever had. When I made the transition from undergraduate physics to postgraduate petroleum engineering, I was sceptical about the lack of personal tutor and doubted whether the teaching would be as engaging as I had before. Peter Fitch has cast any doubt I had about the teaching to one side and has shown every attribute of an excellent teacher.

Pete clearly has a passion for his subject, he lives, and breathes petrophysics. He has a novel approach that combines top quality training to industry standard but also hits the excellent academic standards one would expect at Imperial college. He is enthusiastic, energetic yet calm and assured in his teaching. He dedicates class time to exercise so that every single student is clear about the objectives of his course. His mentimeter class quizzes are an example of the meticulous pre-class prep. His supplementary notes are detailed yet to the point and slideshows exhibit clarity in expression and detailed figures.

Pete also helped during our wytch farm field development group project. Help in fact is an understatement. The three week project was intense and where some groups fell behind, he was there to quite literally save the day. The only member of academic staff who would work constantly from 8:30 am to 10pm to aid the students understanding. The time, endeavour and passion for helping students is quite simply unique.

As a class rep, I have seen Pete deal with all kinds of problems beyond the scope of the academic demands of the course, he knows all students by first name and is always has an open door for students with pastoral or academic problems. It is clear why there is no personal tutor, It is because Pete is there to help.

While He could really have been nominated for many awards, his teaching does go above and beyond any other on this taught postgraduate course. He always has a full lecture theatre and every students full attention. As this course is taught in blocks, i.e. 6 hours per day, 5 days per week, you could easily forgive someone for losing track of the lecture, with Pete however, this I dare say is never the case.


Closing the event, Prof James Stirling, Provost of Imperial College London, said the Student Academic Choice Awards were one of his favourite events of the year and commended all nominees, shortlistees and winners for their dedication to teaching, supervision and supporting students. 

Thank you to all student nominators and staff nominees, and congratulations to our SACAs 2017 winners!

Beit Quadrangle
Prince Consort Road
London SW7 2BB
Registered Charity No: 1151241
Tel: 020 7594 8060
Fax: 020 7594 8065
Twitter: @icunion
VAT Reg No. GB 240 5617 84