Hello I’m Arne Jungwirth, I studied biology at the University of Bielefeld, Germany (2004-2010: BSc and MSc), before moving to Bern, Switzerland, for my PhD (2011-2015). In 2015, I was awarded a Swiss National Science Foundation early postdoc mobility research grant to come to Cambridge and work with Professor Rufus Johnstone. Since 2016 I have been a Cambridge Philosophical Society Henslow Fellow at Hughes Hall, Cambridge, UK.
CPS: Can you summarise your area of study for us?
I work on the evolution of life histories, senescence, and life span in Lake Tanganyika cichlids. The aim of this work is to unravel the evolutionary causes and the mechanistic underpinnings of different rates of ageing across the animal kingdom. To this end I apply comparative approaches in ecological, behavioural, and molecular studies, as well as developing game theoretical models. Ultimately, I hope to use the cichlid system to address those bio-medical issues that we currently see in human societies that reach ever-older ages.
CPS: What encouraged you to apply for a fellowship?
Dr Jungwirth: Before focusing on ageing biology, I had studied social evolution. Making the switch into a different area of research is always a risk, and few funding opportunities exist that encourage or simply support such switches. The Henslow Fellowship was very attractive to me because it allowed me to venture into scientific territory into which I had not previously set foot. I have since been incredibly grateful for the academic freedom that this type of fellowship afforded me. I feel that I have grown as a researcher in a direction and to a degree that would not have been possible under most other funding schemes.
CPS: What do you enjoy the most about your membership of the society?
Dr Jungwirth: The multi-disciplinary nature of the Philosophical Society makes for a very inspiring environment. I have particularly enjoyed the dinners after the Society’s lectures: while the talks themselves are always interesting, having the opportunity to chat to speakers about their work in more detail, and to engage with the other members of the Society in an informal setting, has widened my academic horizon significantly. Being exposed to schools of thought and interests very different to my own research focus is a tremendous pleasure.
CPS: How has it helped your work?
Dr Jungwirth: The Henslow Fellowship has given me the freedom to change research trajectory, to participate in a Cambridge college, and to become involved in teaching within the University. As such, it has provided me with insights into academia in general and the workings of Cambridge University in particular that I would not have gained otherwise. Most crucially, I consider this fellowship the main reason why I am still able to work on questions that I am passionate about.