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Women in Science

Barbara graduated from the University of Pavia and started her specialist training in Cardiology in Italy. Since then she has been in Oxford, and spends about 30% of her time working as a clinician and 70% of her time on teaching and her research. She also has a leadership role as the Vice-President of the European Society of Cardiology.

Portrait of Barbara Casadei© Women in Science


at the time of the interview - April 2015

Barbara is a British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, an Honorary Consultant Cardiologist, and Principal Investigator in the Radcliffe Department of Medicine. She has a daughter. 

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - April 2015

I’ve always been good at taking detours .. I don’t move on a straight line. ... I’m curious and ... I get bored quite easily. So I think research is ideal for someone who has these characteristics

Barbara liked mathematics and physics but her parents and teachers encouraged her to do medicine, so she studied medicine at the University of Pavia in Italy. Then she obtained a tenured clinical post at a teaching hospital in Varese, but in 1989 decided that she would like to spend some time at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Initially she planned to stay six months in Oxford, but decided to stay, so she resigned her position in Italy. She did her DPhil, which was funded mainly by a Junior Research Fellowship from Green College. Barbara finished her specialist training in Oxford and is still here enjoying working as an Honorary Consultant and doing research, which includes the mechanisms and prevention of atrial fibrillation. She has a Programme Grant and Chair from the British Heart Foundation. She also has a leadership role as the Vice-President for Research of the European Society of Cardiology.

When Barbara was aged 34 she had her daughter. This was when she was finishing her DPhil. She wrote her thesis while she was on maternity leave. Barbara had her baby in March and went back to work in August. The University nursery was excellent. Later Barbara relied on au pairs, which were very good.

Barbara has always worked full-time, partly because she feels that her work is always with her to some extent; work and other parts of her life are fused. She has always enjoyed her work. She has also observed that when women work part-time they tend to work almost full-time but get paid for part-time.

When asked about any difficulties she has experienced over the years Barbara said that at times she felt that she wasn’t taken seriously, either because she is a woman or because, as a woman, she is from a minority group in her workplace. When planning her family Barbara decided that it would be best for her career if she only had one child. She is not sure if she would have succeeded if she had had a bigger family. She thinks that the culture is changing for the better, partly due to Athena SWAN. The Department now provides transitional fellowships, which give women confidence to apply for other external fellowships.

Barbara pointed out that an academic career will never be as ‘safe’ as a clinical one, but she has thoroughly enjoyed her career and thinks that it is important that young researchers take risks. She wonders if it is easier for women to take risks because they are not usually thought as the primary bread winner. She says that discovering something new is a most exciting event. Nationality: Italian.