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Soft Matter and Biological Physics

Professor Athene Donald DBE FRS

Professor Dame Athene Donald

Professor of Experimental Physics
Fellow, Robinson College

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

PA Linda Cross (maternity cover):+ 44 (0)1223 337423
E-mail: lrh27 [at]

I have been at the Cavendish since 1983, and became a professor in 1998. 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, and in particular environmental scanning electron microscopy, but these are by no means the only approaches used. We have recently been developing 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 a substantial effort directed at protein aggregation at intermediate lengthscales, predominantly using model protein systems including beta lactoglobulin and insulin but extending to A beta. The unifying theme is understanding structure-function-processing relationships. My group comes from a diverse range of backgrounds, as does my funding.

Beyond research I sit on numerous committees both within and beyond the University. I am currently the University of Cambridge's Gender Equality Champion and more details of my diversity work can be seen through those pages. I chair the Royal Society's Education Committee as well as sit on their Council. I was the founding chair of the Institute of Physics Biological Physics Group (2006-10) and am Project Director of the IOP's Teaching Biological Physics project. I am a Trustee of the Science Museum Group and a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council. I am also Master-elect of Churchill College, and will formally become Master in October 2014.

Last updated February 2014