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Dame Athene Donald

Dame Athene  Donald

Professor of Experimental Physics

Office Phone: +44 (0)1223 337382


Athene Donald did her first and second degrees in Cambridge. After 4 years postdoctoral experience in the USA she returned to Cambridge. She became a Professor in 1998 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. Her research is in the general field of soft matter and physics at the interface of biology; she has published over 250 papers in these fields. She has chaired many committees within Cambridge and beyond and has served on University Council (2009-14) and as the University Gender Equality Champion (2010-14). She is currently a member of the Scientific Council of the ERC and a Trustee of the Science Museum. As well as various prizes from the IOP and Royal Society, she won the 2009 L'Oreal/Unesco Laureate for Europe award. She was appointed DBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours for services to Physics. She took up the role of Master of Churchill College in October 2014.

Subject groups/Research projects

Evidence and Methods:

Research Interests

My activity sits within the sector of Biological and Soft Systems, and focusses on using the ideas of soft matter physics to study a wide range of systems of both synthetic and biological origin. There is an emphasis on using different types of microscopy but these are by no means the only approaches used. There is a particular emphasis on exploring protein aggregation, using the model proteins beta lactoglobulin and insulin. In the field of cellular biophysics we are looking at how external physical cues may affect response, looking at the effect of different sorts of patterns on primary cells and cell lines. In more traditional polymer physics I have an interest in the structure of organic photovoltaics and how this is impacted by processing conditions. The unifying theme is understanding structure-function-processing relationships.  I have collaborations with scientists across the disciplines and PhD students in the group likewise may well not have a background in pure physics.