9 May 2022
A renowned neuroscientist, Professor Tracey has led Merton College since 2019 and is also currently Professor of Anaesthetic Neuroscience in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, a department she led for several years whilst holding a Statutory Chair. She is also President-elect of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS).
Professor Tracey’s research on the neuroscience of pain has contributed to a better understanding of pain perception and the representation of pain in the brain. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Medical Research by Her Majesty The Queen in 2022.
Professor Tracey completed her undergraduate degree and doctorate at Merton College, Oxford, in biochemistry; her doctoral work focused on early use of magnetic resonance imaging methods to study disease mechanisms in humans under the supervision of Professor Sir George Radda.
She then held a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School, working at the Martinos Centre for Biomedical Imaging, before returning to Oxford in 1997, when she became a founding member and then Director for ten years of the world-leading institution now known as the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging.
The Vice-Chancellor is Oxford University’s senior officer, responsible for the strategic direction and leadership of the world’s top-ranked university. Professor Tracey’s nomination has been approved by the University’s Council and is now subject to approval by Congregation, the University’s sovereign body.
Following approval from Congregation, Professor Tracey will succeed the current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, in 2023.
The Nominating Committee was chaired by the University’s Chancellor, The Lord Patten of Barnes, and included members from across the collegiate University. The committee was also attended for the first time by representatives of the student and early career researcher communities.
Professor Irene Tracey said of her nomination:
‘I am honoured to be nominated as the University of Oxford’s next Vice-Chancellor, and I wish to thank my colleagues for entrusting me to lead such a magnificent and world-leading academic institution.
‘The last few years have reminded us all of the crucial role Oxford, along with other leading British universities, plays in tackling global societal issues. That is why I am deeply committed to growing Oxford’s impact through supporting its groundbreaking discovery research, its excellence in teaching and its drive to create a global innovation powerhouse.
‘The University has also made significant strides in recent years to becoming a more diverse community. Coming to Oxford University from a terrific local school, Gosford Hill, I know well the transformative power that great teachers, professors and a good education can have throughout one’s career; Oxford’s commitment to attracting the very best students from whatever their background will remain steadfast.
I am delighted that from next year, having already been an academic leader and college head at Oxford, I will have the chance to further give back to a university that I ardently believe in, and to my home city that I dearly love. I am also proud that I will be passed the leadership baton by Oxford’s first female Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, whose outstanding legacy will be built upon in the years to come.’
The Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten of Barnes, who chaired the Nominating Committee, said: ‘Irene Tracey was born in Oxford and educated at a local comprehensive and Oxford University, for which she has now been proposed as the next Vice-Chancellor. It is an extraordinary story of personal achievement, social mobility and academic excellence. I doubt whether anyone knows more about the University and all its aspects than today’s Warden of Merton. She also, as an internationally recognised scientist, has considerable experience at home and abroad. I am sure she will build successfully on the outstanding achievements of Louise Richardson and lead Oxford in coping with the big challenges which lie ahead.’
The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson, said: ‘I am delighted by the nomination of Professor Irene Tracey, who will bring deep-seated familiarity with the collegiate university as well as enthusiasm for its values, to the role of Vice-Chancellor. Irene’s talents, collegiality and boundless energy will stand her in good stead. I wish her every success and I will do all I can to ensure a smooth transition.’
Notes to editors:
For more information contact the University of Oxford News & Information Office: 01865 280528, firstname.lastname@example.org
- High-res pictures of Professor Irene Tracey available here
- The term of office of the Vice-Chancellor is seven years
- Congregation is the ultimate legislative body of the University. It is made up of around 5,000 senior academic, research, library, museum and administrative staff. For more information see www.ox.ac.uk/about/organisation
- Professor Louise Richardson continues as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford until the end of 2022. She will then become President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York
- Professor Irene Tracey CBE FMedSci biography:
Professor Irene Tracey is currently Warden of Merton College, Oxford, her alma mater, which is one of Oxford’s oldest undergraduate and graduate colleges, dating back to 1264. She is also Professor of Anaesthetic Neuroscience in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (without portfolio) at the University of Oxford.
Professor Tracey was born in Oxford and attended 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 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 Societies (FENS). 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 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. Professor Tracey is married to Professor Myles Allen CBE, a climate physicist, and they have three children, Colette, John and Jim.