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Soft Matter and Biological Physics

Professor Athene Donald DBE FRS

Professor Dame Athene Donald

Professor of Experimental Physics
Master, Churchill College

Telephone: +44 (0)1223 337382
E-mail: amd3 [at]

PA Rachael Price:+ 44 (0)1223 336142
E-mail: MastersPA [at]

I have been at the Cavendish since 1983, and became a professor in 1998, but I am no longer accepting new students. 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. Other techniques used include passive microrheological techniques for the study of a range of complex fluids, including the inside of cells; we are exploring cell adhesion, mitosis and spreading using optical approaches (including the effect of external physical cues such as topographical patterns); and we have studied protein aggregation at intermediate lengthscales, predominantly using model protein systems including beta lactoglobulin and insulin but extending to A beta. The unifying theme has been understanding structure-function-processing relationships. My group came from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Since October 2014 I have been Master of Churchill College.

From 2010-14 I was the University of Cambridge's Gender Equality Champion and more details of my diversity work within and beyond the university can be seen here. I have been a member of Royal Society Council and served on numerous of their committees. Currently I am the chair of their Community of Interest looking at the Research Landscape. I was the founding chair of the Institute of Physics Biological Physics Group (2006-10) and was Project Director of the IOP's Teaching Biological Physics project. I was a Trustee of the Science Museum Group and remain a member of the Science Museum Advisory Board; since 2013 I was a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council from 2013-18; I chaired the Scientific Advisory Council for the Department of Culture, Media and Sports from 2015-17 and I currently chair the Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel for REF2021. I wrote occasionally for the Guardian Science Blogs at Occam's Typewriter

Last updated August 2019