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Fellows Directory

Athene Donald

Professor Dame Athene Donald DBE FRS


Elected: 1999


Twitter @athenedonald


ORCID 0000-0003-4423-9673


Athene Donald is a physicist who is well known for her early work on synthetic polymers, concentrating on relating the structure of polymers to their function. Athene subsequently transferred her knowledge to soft matter and biological physics more broadly, developing specialised imaging techniques such as environmental scanning electron microscopy along the way.

In synthetic polymers, she studied crazing — the fine cracks that precede fracture — by exploring what determines their formation. Subsequently, she utilised X-ray scattering techniques to characterise changes that occur in the natural polymer starch upon cooking and other forms of processing.

In 2006, she was the Bakerian Lecturer for the Royal Society and in 2010 was awarded the Faraday Medal of the Institute of Physics and also received a DBE for services to physics. Beyond her research, Athene has an active interest in issues surrounding gender equality and is a former Chair of the Athena Forum, which aims to improve the situation for women in science, technology, engineering and medicine in UK higher education. Athene has twice been a member of the Society’s Council and chaired the Education Committee from 2010-2014. She is the current Master of Churchill College, Cambridge.

Professional positions

Professor of Experimental Physics, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge
Master, Churchill College, University of Cambridge
Scientific Council Member, European Research Council
Patron, The Daphne Jackson Trust

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


Biophysics, Biopolymers, Colloids, Electron microscopy, Inelastic X-ray scattering, Polymers, Soft Matter