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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory


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 was (2013-18) a member of the Scientific Council of the ERC and has been a Trustee of the Science Museum until 2016 and is still a member of their Scientific Advisory Board. She chaired the Scientific Advisory Board of DCMS (2015-17) and is the Chair of REF2021 Interdisciplinary Advisory Board. As well as various prizes from the IOP and Royal Society, and the award of a number of Honorary Degrees, 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.



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. My main emphasis was on using different types of microscopy but these are by no means the only approaches used. Additionally I had a long-term interest in exploring protein aggregation, using the model proteins beta lactoglobulin and insulin. In the field of cellular biophysics we have been 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. 



Emeritus Professor of Experimental Physics
Master of Churchill College
Professor Dame Athene  Donald

Contact Details

Email address: 
Biological & Soft Systems Sector
Room 917, Rutherford Building
Cavendish Laboratory
JJ Thomson Avenue
+44 (0)1223 337382