Leyden Academy PhD candidate defends thesis on The Evolution of Ageing

On Tuesday January 27th 2015, Maarten Wensink will publicly defend his thesis ‘The Evolution of Ageing: Concepts, Causation and Calculus’ in the Academy building in Leiden.

During his medical education, Maarten became interested in the conceptual foundations of the evolutionary theory of aging, and in the mathematics that pertain to these concepts. Maarten is currently a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR), Rostock, Germany, under joint supervision of Annette Baudisch (MPIDR) and Rudi Westendorp who was director of Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing until 1 January 2015 and now serves as Professor of Medicine at Old Age at the University of Copenhagen.

While evolutionary theories of ageing focus on the force of natural selection, relatively little thought has been given on the physiological possibilities and constraints different forms of life may or may not have. The interaction between these two factors gives a promising new perspective on the evolution of ageing.

The notion that ageing should have an evolutionary basis is over a hundred years old. Yet, it appears that several dissimilar ideas exist about what this evolutionary basis consists of, while not all of these ideas are airtight. In his thesis, Maarten evaluates current theories about the evolutionary basis of ageing, and develops new ideas. This is done by means of thought experiments, mathematical models and data analysis, in which medical and epidemiological thinking is an important element. A direction for further research is proposed.

We wish Maarten the best of luck in defending his dissertation and in his academic career, and above all a long, happy and healthy life!