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£3 million from Enigma codebreaker for Aberystwyth University research

Pictured: Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure (centre) and Dr Eva De Visscher, Trusts and Foundations Manager at Aberystwyth University (second from right) mark the new Joy Welch endowment with researchers who have received support from the Trust (left to right) Dr Valerie Rodrigues (Life Sciences), Dr Alice Vernon (English and Creative Writing), Professor Stephen Tooth (Geography and Earth Sciences), Tracy Knight, Dr Sarah Dalesman and Dr Rhys Thatcher (Life Sciences), and Dr Rachel Cross (Physics).

An Aberystwyth graduate who contributed to the breaking of the German Enigma code during the Second World War has left over £3m to her former University.

Originally from Galgate near Lancaster, Joy Welch studied Economics, Geography and Philosophy at Aberystwyth and graduated in 1950.

In 1943, aged 17, Joy volunteered for the Women’s Royal Naval Service and the work took her to Eastcote, an outpost of Bletchley Park.

There she operated the machines used to break the German Enigma code.

In 1988 she established the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust and the University became a regular beneficiary, reflecting her fond memories of her time at Aberystwyth.

Her long-term support was recognised in 1998 when she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the University. She died in 2017.

The new endowment totalling £3.15m from the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust was announced today, Friday 13 October, by Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure at the University’s annual Founders Day celebrations.

With the first call for applications due in spring 2024, the fund will provide a minimum of 12 research grants a year for postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers across all disciplines at Aberystwyth University.

Professor Elizabeth Treasure said; “We are absolutely delighted that the ongoing relationship with one of our alumni has supported researchers across disciplines and ranks for so many years. The endowment will make sure that this support continues. In a world where research funding programmes change, favouring certain academic fields and types of projects at different times, the Joy Welch Fund will offer opportunities to all our researchers and so make a valuable difference”.

In addition to supporting postgraduate and postdoctoral research, the Trust has also contributed £170,000 towards establishing the Joy Welch Seminar Room in the Old College.

Research funded by the Joy Welch Educational Charitable Trust

Over the years, the Trust has provided over £400,000 to fund research at Aberystwyth University.

Dr Otar Akanyeti from the Department of Computer Science, Dr Sarah Dalesman and Dr Sebastian McBridefrom the Department of Life Sciences, and Dr Alice Vernon from the Department of English and Creative Writing are amongst those who have received support in recent years.

Dr Otar Akanyeti’s work focuses on care for stroke sufferers. Support from the Joy Welch Trust has enabled Dr Akanyeti and his team to secure more than half a million pounds of external funding and are currently running two clinical studies in Aberystwyth and Turkey.

Dr Akanyeti said; “The support from the Joy Welch Trust over the years has enabled us to establish a new research group focusing on improving stroke care pathways using technology and artificial intelligence. We were able to prototype a new gait monitoring technology, engage with stroke patients and their families, disseminate our work in Welsh Stroke Conference and establish new collaborations across the UK and internationally.”

Dr Sarah Dalesman and Dr Sebastian McBride from the Department of Life Sciences have been studying the cognitive abilities of dogs and how they can impact the safety and welfare of dog training.

Dr Dalesman said; “The Joy Welch funding this year has enabled us to buy equipment and employ a student who now plans to pursue a masters’ in this field. It has also led to future research plans to study how, using non-invasive techniques, stress affects dogs’ cognitive ability and performance.”

Dr Alice Vernon from the Department of English and Creative Writing received a Joy Welch grant in 2021-22 for her project ‘Inner Workings: How We Understand and Imagine the Inside of the Human Body’.

Dr Vernon said; “The support of the Joy Welch fund allowed me to conduct archive research in London for the first time, which really helped develop my skills as a researcher and writer. As a result of this work, I was selected to give a lecture at Hay Festival in 2022 which has been one of the high points of my career so far. This was my first grant success and was influential in encouraging me to submit further funding applications. As such, in 2023 I was awarded a University Research Fund award, and I will now be applying for external funding with the Leverhulme Trust and British Academy.”