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Lars Beute and Pam Gottschal winners of Maarten van der Vlerk Thesis Prize 2022

23 November 2022
Lars Beute and Pam Gottschal
Lars Beute and Pam Gottschal

Lars Beute and Pam Gottschal are the winners of the Maarten van der Vlerk Thesis Prize 2022, the prize for excellent bachelor's or master's thesis in the field of Econometrics and Operations Research (and Actuarial Studies). Beute won the prize for his Bachelor’s thesis on the effectiveness of mortality models, Gottschal won the prize for her Master’s thesis on cancer screening.

Bachelor’s thesis

Beute, who now studies the Master Econometrics and works part-time at Aegon, investigated three multi-population mortality models and their effectiveness in predicting Dutch mortality. His results are interesting and suggest a rethink of the standard approach in mortality prediction. The jury complimented him on the very interesting thesis with a solid methodology and a clear contribution. They were especially impressed by the topic and methodology as they are not part of the standard curriculum of the Bachelor Economics and Operations Research.

Beute explains his choice for this subject: “It seemed rather practical at the time and I can use the knowledge I gathered during my research in my part-time job at Aegon. I work in a team which focuses on pensions, so my bachelor thesis is very helpful.”

Master’s thesis

Gottschal completed a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering at the UMCG prior to her master's degree at FEB and already had an interest in the subject. “There is an ongoing discussion on the optimal breast cancer screening policy. Currently in the Netherlands, women between 50 and 75 years old are invited for screening once every two years. The effectiveness of a screening program highly depends on the detectability of the tumors. In literature, a rather restrictive model is used, because it indirectly makes some (false) assumptions like rotational symmetry.

"In my thesis, I did not make such assumptions and just used the definition of sensitivity to estimate the effect of tumor size on sensitivity. Because I make less assumptions, this model is more flexible than the existing models and can potentially more accurately predict the relationship.” At the UMCG, they will continue her research and use her model to optimize the screening policy which in turn could increase years-of-life saved for women and/or decrease healthcare costs.

Gottschal’s thesis stood out to the jury members. “She applied non-standard econometric techniques, the thesis is easy to read despite the complex problem and the topic is of high societal relevance”, explains chairman of the jury professor Ruud Teunter.

Maarten van der Vlerk Thesis Prize

The prize is a tribute to late professor Maarten van der Vlerk, who was the director of the Bachelor Econometrics and Operations Research (EOR) and the Master Econometrics, Operations Research and Actuarial Studies (EORAS) for almost 10 years. A fund has been created in his honor with the purpose to reward excellent students who have just finished a high-quality bachelor's or master's thesis in the field of EOR(AS). The winners of the Maarten van der Vlerk Thesis Prize will receive € 1,000 each.

Last modified:01 February 2023 4.20 p.m.

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