Professor Benedikt Kessler

Group Head: Drug discovery, Mass spectrometry and Protein interaction

Building a happy home and a productive career has always been a priority for Professor Benedikt Kessler. But after having his first child just one week before his PhD Viva, and two more children during his competitive Harvard postdoc, there’s no denying Benedikt’s work and home-life has always been a balancing act.

Taking an interest in science at a young age, Benedikt says he liked the idea of research, because he’d always wanted to do things that had “never been done before”.

After completing his undergraduate degree at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich (ETH), majoring in biochemistry and organic chemistry, Benedikt undertook a 7-month graduate project at the Ludwig Institute in London before returning to Switzerland. While completing his PhD at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Lausanne, focusing on antigen recognition by cytotoxic T-Lymphocytes, Benedikt married and soon had his first child on the way.

Following his PhD Benedikt and his young family moved to Boston where he worked long hours in Hidde Ploegh’s lab at Harvard Medical School, focussing on antigen processing. Having his second and third children in Boston, Benedikt admits it was difficult to get the balance between work and his home-life right in the US, particularly due to the competitive working culture in his lab.

After a number of years at Harvard, Benedikt was recruited to Oxford where he set up his own lab focusing on mass spectrometry and protein turnover, under the watchful eye and mentorship of Professors Peter Ratcliffe and Chris Pugh.

“Moving to Oxford was as much of a lifestyle choice as a work choice. With our children about to get to school age, my wife and I decided we really wanted to bring up our family in Europe. We eventually settled in a wonderful village called Haddenham, around a 30-minute drive from work, and haven’t looked back,” Professor Kessler says.

“I feel I have been very well supported by the Department; two years ago I had an offer for a full professorship in The Netherlands, which NDM matched with a permanent post and lab space in their new building. NDM has also been incredibly supportive of my family.

“My wife and I have both worked hard to be where we are today, but we are very grateful for the opportunities we have been given. We couldn’t be in a better place.”