Benjamin studies how cells shape their DNA. His research group has made a range of striking discoveries. Last summer they cracked the mechanism by which chromosomes get their well-known X shape, and his group previously discovered how a molecular machine called condensin determines how chromosomes are organized within the cell. “These kinds of little machines shape the DNA of all life on earth.
His team provided important insights into how DNA is folded into loops by a similar molecular machine called cohesin. They also discovered how cohesin is regulated by a molecular brake, and how this process is controlled by obstacles on the DNA. “The mechanisms that we investigate lie at the basis of many important processes within the cell. When these mechanisms don’t work well, this leads to all kinds of terrible conditions, including cancer.”
Rowland often collaborates with other research groups that specialize in completely different techniques. Some of these experts are nearby, within the Netherlands Cancer Institute, but many are abroad. “Our own research generally takes place at the scale of cells or chromosomes. Colleagues in Delft have advanced techniques to zoom in much further, all the way to the nanometer scale. We for example collaborate with the lab of Cees Dekker. With our combined expertise, we can go after the really big questions!”
With his affiliated professorship, Rowland plans to build upon his existing collaborations and create opportunities for new collaborations. Through guest lectures, he hopes to attract new students for internships.
His new title also allows him to function as a promotor for the PhD students in his group. “Defending your thesis at the end of your PhD trajectory is a special moment. I guide the PhD students in their research throughout the years leading up to the defense. We make exciting discoveries together, which we then publish in scientific journals. You really embark upon an adventure together. It is quite special to then be the one who gives them their doctorate title at the end of that adventure.”