Ben grew up in the small Willamette Valley town of Amity, Oregon with his parents, younger sister, Alaskan Malamute, and cat. He became hooked on science as an undergraduate at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon thanks to a hands-on Cell Biology lab course taught by Dr. Greg Hermann in which C. elegans
nematodes were used to gain insight into the apoptosis pathway. This experience inspired Ben to seek out independent research during his senior year at L&C in the lab of Dr. Cheryl Maslen at Oregon Health & Science University studying post-transcriptional regulation by nonsense-mediated RNA decay.
After graduating from L&C in 2005, Ben left the West Coast for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. While at NIH, he characterized a kinase involved in C. elegans germline chromatin organization during the meiotic pachytene-to-diplotene transition, in the lab of Dr. Andy Golden. During this time, Ben developed a strong interest in chromatin biology that would lead him to the Malik Lab.
|Ben in North Cascades National Park during larch season|
Now a graduate student in the University of Washington Molecular and Cellular Biology Department, Ben studies the molecular evolution of heterochromatin proteins in the Drosophila melanogaster
species subgroup. Heterochromatin is the condensed gene-poor compartment of eukaryotic genomes, and is essential for chromosome segregation. Despite this important role, heterochromatic DNA sequences largely consist of rapidly evolving repetitive elements. Interestingly, many of the proteins that bind to heterochromatic DNA sequences show signatures of positive selection that are suggestive of genetic conflict. Ben uses a variety of evolutionary analyses combined with traditional molecular, genetic, and cytological techniques to gain insight into the causes and consequences of rapid evolution on centromeric and heterochromatin function.
|Ben on the lower Elwha River, Olympic Peninsula|
When not in the lab, Ben takes advantage of the outdoor recreation paradise that is the Pacific Northwest. He enjoys hiking and backpacking throughout the Cascades and Olympics (the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is a favorite destination). On weekends during spring snowmelt or during the “rainy season” Ben can be found floating the whitewater rivers of Washington.
Kathryn K. Stein, Jessica E. Nesmith, Benjamin D. Ross, and Andy Golden. (2010) Functional Redundancy of Paralogs of an Anaphase Promoting Complex/Cyclosome Subunit in Caenorhabditis elegans Meiosis. Genetics 2010 186:1285-1293.