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Women in Science

Vishvarani studied medicine in Sri Lanka. She married and moved to England, where she trained as an anaesthetist. She returned to Sri Lanka to teach for eight years and then returned to Oxford to do her DPhil, studying the neurophysiology of pain. She now spends 80% of her time doing research and 20% of her time working as an anaesthetist.

Portrait of Vishvarani WanigasekeraBackground

at the time of the interview - March 2015

Vishvarani is an anaesthetist and a researcher in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience. She is married and has two children. Nationality/ethnic background: British / Asian.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - March 2015

Vishvarani grew up in Sri Lanka. She enjoyed science at school, and one of her teachers suggested that she should be a doctor. She wanted to work with people, and liked the idea, so went to medical school in Sri Lanka.

After her medical training Vishvarani met her husband and married. He was also from Sri Lanka but he lived in the UK, so she went to England too. She had to take exams so that she could work in the UK. Once she had finished those exams, and finished her ‘house jobs’ (junior medical training posts) she felt it was the right time to start a family. She had her children in 1988 and 1991. She took 6 months maternity leave for each baby. Later her first child went to a nursery. When her second child was born they had a nanny.

Vishvarani started her specialist training in anaesthetics. At that time Vishvarani also met some female consultant anaesthetists, who were very supportive, and who told her about a scheme which allowed women to work part time as they were doing their specialist training. Part-time training schemes for married women doctors were started due to the efforts of Dame Rosemary Rue. Vishvarani was grateful for this opportunity. In 1991-92 she was introduced to research by a professor, who was doing research related to anaesthetics and the cardiovascular system. She really enjoyed a year doing research in this field. The professor leading the research became her unofficial mentor.

Vishvarani returned to Sri Lanka in 1996 and worked as a Senior Lecturer in the medical school, teaching physiology and pharmacology. In 2004 she returned to the UK and found a post in Oxford, where she could do a DPhil in the neurophysiology of pain, in the Oxford Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB), and at the same time work part time as an anaesthetist. Having finished her DPhil, she is still doing postdoctoral work, which is funded for another two years. Vishvarani now works full time (80% research and 20% doing anaesthetics). She likes working as a clinician, partly because she enjoys the work and partly because funding for research is uncertain. She has never experienced discrimination on grounds of gender or ethnicity, and she would encourage other young women to take up a career in research.