Professor Irene Tracey


University of Oxford


Professor Irene Tracey is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford and former Warden of Merton College, Oxford, her alma mater and one of Oxford’s oldest undergraduate and graduate colleges, dating back to 1264. She is also a Professor of Anaesthetic Neuroscience in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and formerly Pro-Vice-Chancellor (without portfolio) at the University of Oxford.

Professor Tracey was born in Oxford and attended Gosford Hill, a local comprehensive school, before undertaking her undergraduate and graduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Oxford. Her graduate research focused on the early use of magnetic resonance imaging methods to study disease mechanisms in humans.

She then held a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School, working at the MGH-NMR (now Martinos) Imaging Centre. In 1997, Professor Tracey returned to Oxford and was a founding member of the world-leading Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) – now the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging; she was its director from 2005 until 2015.

Professor Tracey was tenured in 2001 to the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics with Tutorial Fellowship in Medicine at Christ Church. She held the Nuffield Chair in Anaesthetic Sciences from 2007 to 2019 with a Fellowship at Pembroke College, where she is now an Honorary Fellow.

Until recently, she was also Head of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences – a 550-person department of scientists and clinicians drawn from neurology, ophthalmology and anaesthetics.

Over the past 20 years, her multidisciplinary research team has contributed to a better understanding of pain perception, pain relief and nociceptive processing within the injured and non-injured human central nervous system, using advanced neuroimaging techniques and novel paradigm designs.

They have also been investigating the neural basis of altered states of consciousness induced by anaesthetic agents. Her work has both discovery and translational elements and has contributed to a fundamental change in how we view pain as an emergent experience not simply related to nociceptive inputs.

Alongside senior leadership roles within the University, Irene has served and continues to serve on many national and international committees, such as the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), the British Neuroscience Association and the Lundbeck Brain Prize Committee.

She currently sits on the Medical Research Council and is President-elect of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) 2022 to 2024. She is a passionate advocate for women in science and is involved in several mentorship schemes.

In 2008 she was awarded the triennial Patrick Wall Medal by the Royal College of Anaesthetists, and in 2009 she was made an FRCA for her contributions to the discipline.

In 2015 she was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and in 2017 won the Feldberg Foundation Prize, followed in 2018 by the British Neuroscience Association’s Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience award.

In 2020 she was elected a member of the Academia Europaea. In the New Year’s Honours List 2022, she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Her Majesty The Queen for services to Medical Research. She received her CBE from HM The King at Windsor Castle on 16 November 2022 during the first Investiture held by His Majesty following his Accession.

Professor Tracey is married to Professor Myles Allen CBE, a climate physicist, and they have three children, Colette, John and Jim.

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