IARU Sommer School 2016 – University of Copenhagen

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IARU Summer School 2016

Interdisciplinary Aspects of Healthy Aging

Population aging is one of the most important demographic events of the 21st century. For the first time, the elderly population will make up the larger part of our society and this will profoundly impact citizens and society, economically, politically and socially. Recent years have seen increasing interest in understanding healthy aging, the ability of the individual to maintain sufficient physical, mental and social energy to live active and meaningful lives.

The course, offered by the Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen, through the IARU Global Summer Program, will focus on exploring the aging phenomena through an interdisciplinary lens with a special focus on the concept of energy, a key component of healthy aging. Energy relates to processes at the cellular as well as the individual level and has not only physical but also important psychological and social dimensions which affect every facet of life. The course will take a starting point in the newly published book, Growing Older Without Feeling Old: On Vitality and Ageing by Professor Rudi Westendorp.

Objectives & Course Format

The objective of this course is to gain interdisciplinary knowledge and research experience in the field of aging to better understand how people can live more energetic lives and enjoy a robust older age. The following sub objectives will be achieved over three weeks from July 4-23, 2016.

Week one: The main objective in week one is to provide knowledge on the interdisciplinary nature of the aging phenotype and how to evaluate the strengths and limitations of such research. Each CEHA theme will be allotted three lecture hours. The first lecture should give a bird’s eye view of how aging and specifically the concept of energy are conceptualized and worked with in the theme. Two additional lecture hours should be used to delve deeper into disciplinary examples of research conducted in the specific theme, while keeping the interdisciplinary nature of aging research in mind. This could include for example, reflections on the strengths and weaknesses of research within an individual discipline and how said research could benefit from interdisciplinary endeavors.  The remainder of week one will be used on student presentations on aging in their own discipline/country taking a starting point in the book Growing Older Without Feeling Old: On Vitality and Ageing.

Week two: The objectives of week two are to bring the students closer to the scientific research process and to give the students the opportunity to design an interdisciplinary research project

. In the mornings, the students will carry out hands on research projects in small groups under the supervision of researchers representing CEHA’s three themes. These projects should span the disciplines that comprise CEHA, and thus represent different scientific methods from: laboratory work, to data analysis and qualitative research. All these projects should work with the concept of energy. During the afternoons the students will be grouped in interdisciplinary groups, supervised by top aging researchers, Rudi Westendorp, George Leeson (Oxford Institute of Population Ageing) and Thomas Kirkwood(Newcastle University), who will assist the students in designing an interdisciplinary research project, based on their disciplinary experiences in the hands on morning sessions, the lectures in the first week and the relevant literature. 

Week three: The objective in week 3 is to assist the students in exploring how interdisciplinary research projects are defined and evaluated. Within the interdisciplinary student groups, students will write a grant proposal which will be presented and defended in a mock grant trial at the end of the third week. Individual written reports based on the grant proposals will be submitted for evaluation on a pass/fail basis at the end of the course.

Different social activities and field trips also will be arranged.


At the end of the course participants will:

  • Gain foundational knowledge supporting that aging is a complex phenotype and its research necessitates integrating concepts from the humanities, social science, epidemiology, neurology, physiology, and molecular biology
  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of aging research that is currently being performed and published
  • Gain hands on experience on reading and conducting research into aging and working in an interdisciplinary setting
  • Synthesize current knowledge and practical research experience in a short report and group presentation formatted according to the scientific grant application.

Participation in the course

The course runs from 4-24 July 2016, and will be taking place at the Centre for Health and Society (in Danish known as CSS - Center for Sundhed og Samfund).

The target audience is Master students, from any discipline, who have interests in aging research, and have good English skills. Bachelor and PhD students are also welcome to apply.


Please apply for the course, by making use of this application template.

Please email your application to Course Secretary Academic officer Line Damberg.

Application deadline (extended!)

The application deadline for Danish students and students from other foreign universities: 1 May 2016.

The application deadline for IARU students has expired (7 march 2016).