BEN ROLLO - Research student

Ben Rollo portrait








Salary range

AUD$27,000 p.a. tax free

My advice for students

“Follow through on your interests. Biology always interested me, although I never studied it at school. I did physics and maths instead, but I could never really get a 'feel' for those subjects. The life sciences seem more real, something to get your hands on. And don’t worry if you’re interested in more than one thing. I studied arts subjects as well as science at uni.

“It’s important to understand that Honours and PhD work is quite different from the ‘straight’ study that you do during your degree. In research, you have more freedom and fun. Within reasonable limits, you can follow your own interests, devise your own experiments and find out something that’s never been known before. I think it can be a fantastic career!”

What I studied

Bachelor of Science (Honours) 2000
Also completing Bachelor of Arts
Currently doing research for a PhD

Ben Rollo is just starting on his scientific career. After studying Science and Arts at Monash University, he took up the offer of a PhD at the Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development. The Institute is part of the Dairy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

The research for Ben's PhD centres on the science of cloning animals – in particular, cows. It is at the forefront of one of the most exciting areas in biology. In normal development, a sperm and an egg fuse to start the growth of an embryo. In the technique of embryo cloning, however, sperm are not required. Instead, scientists use a tiny needle to remove the egg cell’s nucleus, which contains its DNA. Then, they carefully take a cell from an adult animal and transfer this donor cell into the egg cell. The result is an egg cell ready to go, although it usually needs some encouragement to get it to divide. Many species of animal have now been cloned using this technique.

The process isn’t easy. Ben explains it like this:

“Although cloning is cutting-edge technology, it remains inefficient. The majority of egg cells do not respond properly when a donor nucleus is put inside them, and so no embryo will develop. I’m looking for factors that could convert the donor cell into a state where it is better suited for artificial development – to reprogram it, if you like. This way, we can increase the number of calves that can be produced using cloning.”

Ben sees the work as extending beyond just cloning cows.

“It teaches us all about how cells specialise as they develop, and whether it is possible to get them to rewind the development clock back to a stage before they specialised.

“I get really caught up in my experiments. It’s great when they work out, but often they don’t. That’s just the way science is. But even an experiment that doesn’t do what you want can still tell you something. The work is very rewarding. It’s so exhilarating when it goes right.”