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The University of Amsterdam (UvA) celebrated its 379th Dies Natalis (birthday) on Monday, 10 January 2011. In the opening speech, Rector Magnificus Prof. Dymph van den Boom gave her reaction to the advice of the Veerman committee regarding the future of Dutch higher education.

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) celebrated its 379th Dies Natalis (birthday) on Monday, 10 January 2011. In the opening speech, Rector Magnificus Prof. Dymph van den Boom gave her reaction to the advice of the Veerman committee regarding the future of Dutch higher education. Evolutionary biologist Professor Steph Menken then gave the Dies speech entitled ‘Universal Darwinism’. After a musical interlude, regenerative medicine specialist Prof. Nadia Rosenthal and journalist and documentary maker Ad van Liempt received an honorary doctorate from the UvA. The afternoon ended with the presentation of the ‘UvA Lecturer of the Year 2010’ prize, which was awarded to Sander Bais.

Rector Magnificus Dymph van den Boom used her speech to examine the future of Dutch higher education. The Veerman committee has recommended that universities should create a more distinct profile to differentiate themselves from each other. This means that universities have to dare to make tough choices under their own initiative. Van den Boom noted that the Dutch government has already been trying to achieve better profiling for the last 25 years, although this has so far been unsuccessful. She outlined a number of pitfalls that now lurk, but also presented a scenario which could lead to success this time. She is optimistic about the chances of success.

Dies speech

The Dies speech of Prof. Dr. Steph Menken was entitled Universal Darwinism. The ideas of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace have radically changed the way we view ourselves and the world we live in: we are here by accident (and are certainly not the crowning glory of creation), chimpanzees and bonobos are our cousins, and we are alone here on earth. The evolutionary algorithm of variation, selection and reproduction can also be applied to scientific fields outside biology. Evolutionary psychology, evolutionary game theory in economics and Darwinian medicine are all affected by the ‘universal acid’ of neo-Darwinism. But can the truckloads of physical (diabetes, aging, low back pain) and mental (dementia, schizophrenia) defects that humans carry with them also be explained adaptively? See link below for the full text.

Honorary doctorates

The UvA conferred honorary doctorates to Professor Nadia Rosenthal and Ad van Liempt. Rosenthal is an expert on the regeneration of the heart and skeletal muscles. She is head of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Monterotondo (Rome) and Professor of Cardiovascular Science at Imperial College London. Her research laid the foundation for our understanding of aging and regeneration (the therapeutic restoration of affected tissues and organs).

Ad van Liempt is a journalist, writer and documentary maker. He held several positions with the NOS / NPS and was , among other positions, head of domestic news for the daily television news programme NOS Journaal, head of Studio Sport and chief editor of current affairs programme NOVA. His last position was as chief editor of history. In 2006, he was appointed lecturer in 'Investigative Journalism on Television' at the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht due to his broad expertise. With a large number of original publications and documentaries to his name, Van Liempt has made an important contribution to historical research and historiography in the Netherlands.

UvA Lecturer of the Year 2010

The Dies Natalis ended with the presentation of the award for ‘UvA Lecturer of the Year 2010’. The nominees were: Dr. Bart Heerikhuizen (Sociology), Dr Etienne Verheijck (Medicine), Prof. Marita Mathijsen (Dutch language and culture), Dr. Rodie Risselada (Latin language and culture) and Prof. Sander Bais (Natural and Social Sciences). After the jury report had been read out, jury president Frances Heest ( ASVA student union member and History student) and the Rector Magnificus handed out the prizes. The UvA Lecturer of the Year 2010 was Sander Bais.