Rebecca Robker


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

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1993 …2023

Research activity per year

Personal profile


Professor Rebecca Robker is a biomedical scientist dedicated to discovering how the female body, particularly the ovary, grows healthy oocytes, ovulates them at precisely the right time and maturity for fertilization and endows them with the molecular building blocks to generate a viable embryo.

Rebecca is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow. She has held an Adjunct Appointment at Monash University since 2015, within the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology and the Biomedicine Discovery Institute. She currently supervises 3 PhD students at Monash.

Dr Robker received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas at Austin and her PhD in Biomedical Science from Baylor College of Medicine (Houston TX). Her PhD studies discovered novel mechanisms by which hormones control ovarian cell proliferation and identified proteases that control ovulation. Dr Robker undertook an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship in Leukocyte Biology (Baylor College of Medicine) where her studies revealed that leukocytes are resident in adipose tissue and activated by high fat diet.

In 2003, Dr Robker re-located to Australia where her work focused on basic science discoveries relevant to the fields of Reproductive Medicine and Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DoHaD). Her team demonstrated that ovarian somatic cells and oocytes are affected by obesity, discovered mechanisms by which lipid metabolism and lipid excess affect oocyte developmental potential, and found that obesity-induced alterations in oocyte mitochondria persist into offspring tissues.

The discoveries of the Robker lab are leading to new understandings of female fertility and embryo development. They have applications for the development of infertility treatments for women, therapies for optimising animal reproduction and new contraceptives, as well as important implications for women’s health policies.

Research interests

Dr Robker’s research is primarily focused on illuminating the basic biological mechanisms that regulate ovarian function.

Female health is highly dependent upon proper functioning of the ovary, which produces essential steroid hormones as well as oocytes- precious cells which are the foundation for transmission of life. The ovary consists of highly specialised cell types, which generate a microenvironment for the oocyte that establishes its developmental potential, i.e. its ability to make an embryo. Ovulation- the timely release of an oocyte from a woman’s ovary is tightly regulated by hormones and environmental conditions to precisely synchronise reproductive events for fertilisation and the generation of new life. The egg must be of good quality and developmentally competent in order to generate a healthy embryo, capable of implantation and a continued legacy of good health. In plain terms: a good quality egg at the right time provides the fundamental basis for the healthiest start to life.

The Robker lab research is currently focused on three broad areas:

Understanding the molecular mechanisms which enable the oocyte to be expelled from the ovary into the oviduct for fertilisation; such as the essential role of the progesterone receptor transcription factor in this process.

Uncovering cellular mechanisms by which different maternal physiological signals, such as obesity and age, impair ovarian function, and early embryo development; and identifying effective therapeutics to reverse damage.

Identifying biological mechanisms by which events at conception influence lifetime health; in particular how alterations to oocytes (and sperm) endow the embryo with a molecular legacy that determines offspring phenotypes.


By working with fertility clinics our findings from animal studies are extended to examine biological mechanisms in human ovarian cells and gametes. Similarly, collaborations with agricultural scientists lead to improvements in animal production.

Supervision interests

Research Team:

Dr Robker’s research team and trainees are based at both Monash University and the University of Adelaide. Current lab members at the University of Adelaide are postdoc Macarena Gonzalez, postgraduate students Thao Dinh, Yasmyn Gordon, David Kennedy and Minnu Jayapal and research assistant Haley Connaughton. Current trainees at Monash University are Jun Liu and Abena Nsiah-Sefee (co-supervised with Prof John Carroll) and Tara-Lyn Carter (co-supervised with Damian Dowling). The group is currently accepting new students and new postdocs and each project is designed in consultation with prospective students according to their interests, expertise and skill levels.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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