Proud of how I’ve grown as a person

For her thesis, Melissa van Wingerden (23) has been awarded the Johan de Witt Thesis Award 2021 by the Royal Dutch Actuarial Association (Koninklijk Actuarieel Genootschap). Melissa was a Master’s student at Tilburg University and previously associated with Netspar, so we are proud of her achievement. We spoke to Melissa, who had just returned from Lapland and was still enjoying the interest sparked by winning the Johan de Witt Thesis Award.

Fotography Jacques Kok

       Name: Melissa van Wingerden

July 14, 2021 at Tilburg University

Thesis: The optimization of collective investment strategies for heterogenous individuals 


Congratulations on winning this prestigious award! Has the response from people been positive?

‘Thanks, the reaction has been amazing! I’ve had several beautiful bouquets delivered. I’ve received messages of congratulations from colleagues, fellow students, friends and acquaintances. I’ve even had messages from pension fund managers who’ve seen my thesis and want to talk to me about the findings. That’s really quite an honor.’

You work at Achmea as an actuarial talent. How did Achmea help you with your thesis and your current job?

Achmea offered me the unique opportunity of working with Agnes Joseph during my graduate internship. I jumped at the chance. She supervised me during my thesis and I gained a lot from her knowledge and experience. I’m also grateful to Achmea for giving me a unique role as an actuarial talent, enabling me to have the pleasure of working every day with inspirational colleagues like Agnes.

You have a Netspar past – how did that help you?

‘Alongside my Master’s program, Netspar enabled me to become acquainted with the profession and get to know lots of interesting researchers. When I was writing my thesis, I benefited a lot from Netspar researcher Anne Balter. She was my supervisor at Tilburg University.’

What was it like doing research and completing your thesis in the time of coronavirus?

‘Strangely enough, I also regard this whole coronavirus period as an opportunity. It saved me a lot of travel time because I could do everything online. I was able to easily switch from work to study and also have time for the three study association committees I was on. I cleared my head by doing a lot of walking, often with my dog.’

Winning this award also involves quite a sum of money. What are you going to do with it?

‘I’m sure I’ll find a really good use for it. Just like my first salary, I want to spend it on something that stays with me. Earlier this month, that meant experiencing the greatest trip ever to Lapland with my sister. So, I hope to use the money to experience even more of the things on my bucket list. Of course, any suggestions are always welcome!’

Finally, what are you most proud of?

‘Of how I’ve grown as a person and the people that enabled me to achieve that. I’ve become stronger as a person. In the past, I occasionally came across as slightly shy, but I now know what I’m capable of and I have the confidence to show it.’

And rightly so! You serve as an example to young students who are currently embarking on graduation.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


Mission en strategy           •           Network           •           Organisation           •          Magazine
Board Brief            •            Actionplan 2023-2027           •           Researchagenda


Our partners

B20160708_university of groningen
B20211201_Cardano_Logo 2021_website
AFM logo 2023 zwart wit
View all partners