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Women in Science

Eleanor studied medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. While working at the Royal Free Hospital she decided to specialise in hepatology and gastroenterology. She did her DPhil at Oxford and since then has been awarded several large grants to continue her research, which is mainly concerned with hepatitis C virus infection. She also does clinical work.

Portrait of Eleanor Barnes© Women in Science


at the time of the interview May 2015

Eleanor is a Professor of Hepatology and Experimental Medicine, and an MRC Senior Fellow in the Nuffield Department of Medicine. She is also an Honorary Consultant in Hepatology and General medicine. She has two children. 

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - May 2015

At school Eleanor was interested in science. She decided to study medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. In her fifth year she did a BSc in anthropology and philosophy, which she enjoyed. She was most inspired by medicine in her sixth year when she had contact with patients. She realised that all the facts she had learnt at medical school were not enough to answer important clinical questions so decided to go into academic medicine.

Eleanor did her ‘house jobs’ and enjoyed the responsibility. She did a year as a Registrar at the Royal Free Hospital, a liver transplant centre, which she found exciting. At that stage she decided to specialise in hepatology and gastroenterology. She was determined to get into research, so worked unpaid for three months, before she was awarded a one year fellowship by the Royal Free Hospital, which gave her the opportunity to gather more data in order to apply for more substantial funding. She then applied to the MRC for a Training Fellowship and was awarded the grant, which gave her the money to do her DPhil. For three years she did intensive research and was not working with patients.

In the workplace I’ve always found everyone to be very supportive, but there are inequalities, just because women are doing most of the childcare still. 

By this time Eleanor was married. She had her first child during the time she was doing her DPhil. One of her DPhil supervisors was in Oxford, so she decided to move to Oxford too. After her DPhil Eleanor went back to the wards for a year to finish her clinical training. She had her second child three years later. Eleanor worked four days a week when she had young children. Her husband took an equal share in child care and also assumed equal responsibility for managing the home, planning the meals, and buying the clothes, which Eleanor says is unusual. Her husband worked four days a week too. When they were both working they had a child minder for a while and then the children went to a nursery.

Eleanor thinks that women still find it harder to progress in their careers than men and she thinks that Athena SWAN has been fantastic for the University. She has seen a real transformation in the last three years.

Eleanor works hard and has limited time for other activities, such as hiking in the mountains, but she is very excited by her work, which is mainly concerned with hepatitis C virus infection. She has been awarded an MRC Senior Fellowship, which has given her five years to continue her work in HCV vaccine development. This is a great achievement because only about five are awarded each year. Eleanor is also leading an international consortium called STOP- HCV, which involves a collaboration between 22 partners from around the UK, and which integrates industry, clinicians and scientists in stratified medicine. The MRC awarded £5.15 million pounds for the project, which aims to optimise the treatment of patients with Hepatitis C Virus infection.

Eleanor thinks she is a good role model for her children because she has maintained a happy home life as well as working. She spends most of her time on her research, but also does some clinical work, and DPhil supervision. Ethnic background/ Nationality: White British.