Athene Donald

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Dame Athene Donald
Athene Donald (cropped).jpg
Born Athene Margaret Griffith
(1953-05-15) 15 May 1953 (age 62)[1]
Nationality British
Alma mater Girton College, Cambridge
Thesis Electron microscopy of grain boundary embrittled systems (1977)
Notable awards
Spouse Matthew J. Donald[1]
from the BBC programme The Life Scientific, 2013-06-04[3]

Dame Athene Margaret Donald DBE FRS (born 15 May 1953)[1] is a British physicist.[4][5] She is Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge, a member of the Cambridge University Council and Master of Churchill College, Cambridge.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]


Donald was educated at Camden School for Girls[1] and Girton College, Cambridge. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Natural Science (Theoretical Physics) followed by a PhD in 1977.[14]


Donald worked at Cornell University as a postdoctoral associate, before returning to Cambridge in 1981 and to the Cavendish Laboratory in 1983. She became Professor of Experimental Physics in 1998. Her major domain of study is soft matter physics, particularly its applications to living organisms and the relationship between structure and other properties.[15][16] Her research has applied microscopy, and in particular Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy to the study of both synthetic and biological systems, notably protein aggregation.[17][18][19][20][21][22]

Donald was a fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge, director of WiSETI, the University's Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative, and the University's Gender Equality Champion.[23] Outside the university, she chairs the Athena forum,[24] an organisation which aims to provide a strategic oversight of developments that seek to, or have proven to, advance the career progression and representation of women in science, technology, mathematics, and medicine (STEM) in UK higher education. She is also a member of the ESPCI ParisTech Scientific Committee[25] and was the first director of the Physics of Medicine Initiative. She is a member of the Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering,[26] and was appointed a Trustee of the National Museum of Science in Industry in 2011.[27]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 1999 Donald was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Her nomination reads

Athene Donald is distinguished for her work relating mechanical properties to the structure of polymers. She showed that polymer crazing could not be understood without reference to the entanglement network, and showed that two processes are involved, chain scission and chain disentanglement, depending differently on temperature and molecular weight. This work underpins the understanding of brittleness and ductility in solid polymers. She pioneered studies of thermotropic liquid crystalline polymers via transmission electron microscopy, revealing the ubiquity of banded textures after shear flow in these materials. More recently, she has developed X-ray methods for characterising starch, thereby opening up the field to novel physical methods which enhance those of the plant biologists and food scientists.[2]

Donald has also been awarded the following:

Personal life[edit]

Donald is married to the mathematician Matthew J. Donald;[1][35] the couple have two children.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e "DONALD, Prof. Dame Athene Margaret" (Who's Who 2013, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2013; online edn, Oxford University Press). (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b "Library and Archive Catalogue EC/1999/13 Donald, Athene Margaret". London: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2014-02-09.  horizontal tab character in |title= at position 31 (help)
  3. ^ "Athene Donald". The Life Scientific. 4 June 2013. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  4. ^ a b "Desert Island Discs with Athene Donald". Desert Island Discs. 22 March 2009. BBC. Radio 4. 
  5. ^ Donald, A.; Jacobsen, S.D. (28 June 2013). "Dr. Athene Donald: Experimental Physicist, University of Cambridge". In-Sight (2.A): 85–97. 
  6. ^ University Council Archived November 8, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ University of Cambridge web page Archived February 16, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Prof Dame Athene Donald, DBE, FRS at Debrett's People of Today
  9. ^ Athene Donald's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database, a service provided by Elsevier.
  10. ^ Jenkins, P. J.; Donald, A. M. (1998). "Gelatinisation of starch: A combined SAXS/WAXS/DSC and SANS study". Carbohydrate Research 308: 133. doi:10.1016/S0008-6215(98)00079-2. 
  11. ^ Jenkins, P. J.; Donald, A. M. (1995). "The influence of amylose on starch granule structure". International Journal of Biological Macromolecules 17 (6): 315–21. doi:10.1016/0141-8130(96)81838-1. PMID 8789332. 
  12. ^ Krebs, M. R. H.; MacPhee, C. E.; Miller, A. F.; Dunlop, I. E.; Dobson, C. M.; Donald, A. M. (2004). "The formation of spherulites by amyloid fibrils of bovine insulin". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101 (40): 14420. doi:10.1073/pnas.0405933101. 
  13. ^ Athene Donald on Twitter
  14. ^ Donald, Athene (1977). Electron microscopy of grain boundary embrittled systems (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. 
  15. ^ Jenkins, P. J.; Cameron, R. E.; Donald, A. M. (1993). "A Universal Feature in the Structure of Starch Granules from Different Botanical Sources". Starch - Stärke 45 (12): 417. doi:10.1002/star.19930451202. 
  16. ^ Krebs, M. R. H.; Bromley, E. H. C.; Donald, A. M. (2005). "The binding of thioflavin-T to amyloid fibrils: Localisation and implications". Journal of Structural Biology 149 (1): 30–37. doi:10.1016/j.jsb.2004.08.002. PMID 15629655. 
  17. ^ Donald, A. M.; Windle, A. H.; Brand, H. R. (1993). "Liquid Crystalline Polymers". Physics Today 46 (11): 87. doi:10.1063/1.2809100. 
  18. ^ Windle, A. H.; Donald, A. D. (1992). Liquid crystalline polymers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-30666-3. 
  19. ^ University of Cambridge webpage
  20. ^ List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
  21. ^ Starch: structure and functionality. Cambridge, Eng: Royal Society of Chemistry. 1997. ISBN 0-85404-742-5. 
  22. ^ The importance of polymer science for biological systems: University of York, UK, 26-28 March 2008. Cambridge, Eng: Royal Society of Chemistry. 2008. ISBN 0-85404-120-6. 
  23. ^ University of Cambridge Equality Champions
  24. ^ Athena Forum
  25. ^ ESPCI ParisTech ISC
  26. ^ "Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering". Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  27. ^ Science Museum press release
  28. ^ Women in Science laureate picks up award
  29. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59446. p. 6. 12 June 2010.
  30. ^ UKRC web page
  31. ^ Honorary Doctorate of Science
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Athletics coach who inspired Olympic glory is awarded honorary degree". The University of Sheffield - News releases. Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
  34. ^ "Edinburgh Campus graduations - News | Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh". 2015-10-27. Retrieved 2015-12-07. 
  35. ^ "A Many-Minds Interpretation Of Quantum Theory". Retrieved 2013-12-31. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir David Wallace
Master of Churchill College
2014 -
Succeeded by