Athene Donald

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Dame Athene Donald
Athene Donald (cropped).jpg
Athene Margaret Griffith

(1953-05-15) 15 May 1953 (age 65) [1]
London, England
ResidenceCambridge, England, UK
Alma mater University of Cambridge (BA, PhD)
Spouse(s)Matthew J. Donald [1]
Scientific career
Thesis Electron microscopy of grain boundary embrittled systems  (1977)
Doctoral students Aline Miller

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

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science and medical science'.

Physicist scientist who does research in physics

A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe. Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate causes of phenomena, and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms. Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic and particle physics, through biological physics, to cosmological length scales encompassing the universe as a whole. The field generally includes two types of physicists: experimental physicists who specialize in the observation of physical phenomena and the analysis of experiments, and theoretical physicists who specialize in mathematical modeling of physical systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. Physicists can apply their knowledge towards solving practical problems or to developing new technologies.

Experimental physics is the category of disciplines and sub-disciplines in the field of physics that are concerned with the observation of physical phenomena and experiments. Methods vary from discipline to discipline, from simple experiments and observations, such as the Cavendish experiment, to more complicated ones, such as the Large Hadron Collider.


Early life and education

Donald was born Athene Margaret Griffith in London to Walter Griffith and Annette Marian Tylor. [13] She 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 for research on electron microscopy of grain boundary embrittled systems. [14]

Camden School for Girls

The Camden School for Girls (CSG) is a comprehensive secondary school for girls, with a co-educational sixth form, in the London Borough of Camden in north London. It has about one thousand students of ages eleven to eighteen, and specialist-school status as a Music College. The school has long been associated with the advancement of women's education.

Girton College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

Girton College is one of the 31 constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge. The college was established in 1869 by Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon and Lady Stanley of Alderley as the first women's college in Cambridge. In 1948, it was granted full college status by the university, marking the official admittance of women to the university. In 1976, it was the first Cambridge women's college to become coeducational.

The Natural Sciences Tripos (NST) is the framework within which most of the science at the University of Cambridge is taught. The tripos includes a wide range of Natural Sciences from physical sciences to biology which are taught alongside the history and philosophy of science. The tripos covers several courses which form the University of Cambridge system of Tripos. It is known for its broad range of study in the first year, in which students cannot study just one discipline, but instead must choose three courses in different areas of the natural sciences and one in mathematics. As is traditional at Cambridge, the degree awarded after Part II is a Bachelor of Arts (BA). A Master of Science degree (MSci) is available to those who take the optional Part III. It was started in the 19th Century.

Research and career

She worked at Cornell University as a postdoctoral associate, where she switched working on metals to polymers, before returning to Cambridge (Department of Materials Science) 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]

Cornell University private university in Ithaca (New York, US)

Cornell University is a private and statutory Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, the university was intended to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge—from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals, unconventional for the time, are captured in Cornell's founding principle, a popular 1868 Ezra Cornell quotation: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."

Cavendish Laboratory Physics laboratory

The Cavendish Laboratory is the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and is part of the School of Physical Sciences. The laboratory was opened in 1874 on the New Museums Site as a laboratory for experimental physics and is named after the British chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish. The laboratory has had a huge influence on research in the disciplines of physics and biology.

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]

Environmental scanning electron microscope

The environmental scanning electron microscope or ESEM is a scanning electron microscope (SEM) that allows for the option of collecting electron micrographs of specimens that are "wet," uncoated, or both by allowing for a gaseous environment in the specimen chamber.

Further details of her research can be found in the citation for the Faraday Medal she was awarded by the Institute of Physics in 2010: [23]

Professor Donald's deeply innovative and productive research is in experimental soft condensed matter physics, incorporating polymer and colloidal physics, and more recently biological physics. Her early Cornell work on glassy polymer crazing remains very influential and was followed by insightful studies of shear deformation in liquid crystal polymers (LCPs).

Here she was able to demonstrate the ubiquity of the so-called banded texture after shear of LCP's and study the underlying packing of the molecules by electron microscopy showing how they followed a serpentine trajectory in several thermotropics. She also carried out important work on lyotropic systems, including a synthetic polypeptide, studying its gelation and phase diagram.

Donald's mid-career launch into biological physics followed naturally from this polymer work leading to the physics of food and thence to starch. The starch granule structure and its changes during different processing histories were brilliantly analysed using a novel X-ray scattering technique. Structural changes during cooking, with the amylopectin molecule imaginatively treated as a side chain liquid crystalline polymer, brought understanding to different processing treatments. The misfolding of proteins forming amyloid fibrils is well recognized in the aetiology of many diseases, particularly those of old age. Donald's recent work has demonstrated that this important and challenging problem can be powerfully addressed by the approaches of polymer science and furthermore suggests an intriguing connection between the structures observed in both fields.

Donald's impressive achievements in biological physics are strongly based on the imaginative use environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM), neutron and X-ray scattering, optical microscopy and infrared spectroscopy. With ESEM in particular her success is supported by her many earlier pioneering investigations of its basic physics. To maintain this vital interchange between soft matter physics and biology, Donald has founded a well resourced Biology and Soft Systems (BSS) Group at the Cavendish.

Administrative work

Donald was a Fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge from 1981 to 2014, when she became Master of Churchill College. She was also a member of the ESPCI ParisTech Scientific Committee during that same time period. [24]

Robinson College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

Robinson College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. Founded in 1977, Robinson is one of the newest Oxbridge colleges and is unique in having been intended, from its inception, for both undergraduate and graduate students of both sexes.

From 2009 to 2014, she served as a member of the Council of Cambridge University. She is a member of the Advisory Council of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, [25] and was appointed a Trustee of the Science Museum Group from 2011-16. [26] She has been a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council since 2013. [27] She chaired the Scientific Advisory Council of the Department of Culture, Media and Sports 2015-17.

Donald was the first chair of the Institute of Physics Biological Physics group from 2006 to 2010 and coordinated the writing of lecture notes in Biological Physics. [28] From 2006 to 2008 and 2012–15 she served on the Council of the Royal Society and from 2010 to 2014 she chaired their Education Committee. For 2015–16 she was President of the British Science Association. [29]

Diversity work

Donald has been an outspoken champion of women in science. From 2006 to 2014 she was Director of WiSETI, Cambridge University's Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative, and she was the University's first Gender Equality Champion from 2010 to 2014.[23] Outside the University, she chaired the Athena Forum from 2009 to 2013, 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 sat on the BIS (later BEIS) Diversity group, and serves the Equality and Diversity Board of Sheffield University and the Gender Balance Working Group of the ERC; she is a Patron of the Daphne Jackson Trust. She regularly writes on the topic of women in science in both mainstream media [30] [31] and on her personal blog. She also gives many talks on the issue.

She was awarded the UKRC's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, [32] a Suffrage Science award by the MRC in 2013 [33] and her portrait by Tess Barnes hangs in the Cavendish Laboratory. [34] Donald talks about some of the issues for women in science in this video.

Awards and honours

In 1999 Donald was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Her nomination reads: [2]

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.

Donald has also been awarded the following:

Personal life

Donald is married to mathematician Matthew J. Donald in 1976; [13] [1] [57] the couple have two children; one son and one daughter. [13] [4]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 DONALD, Prof. Dame Athene Margaret. Who's Who. 2017 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. Closed Access logo alternative.svg (subscription required)
  2. 1 2 "Library and Archive Catalogue EC/1999/13 Donald, Athene Margaret". London, UK: The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 9 February 2014.
  3. "Athene Donald". The Life Scientific. 4 June 2013. BBC Radio 4 . Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  4. 1 2 "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 8 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. University of Cambridge web page Archived 16 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Prof Dame Athene Donald, DBE, FRS, Debrett's People of Today. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  9. Athene Donald's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  10. Jenkins, P.J.; Donald, A.M. (1998). "Gelatinisation of starch: A combined SAXS/WAXS/DSC and SANS study". Carbohydrate Research. 308 (1–2): 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): 14420–14424. Bibcode:2004PNAS..10114420K. doi:10.1073/pnas.0405933101. PMC   521966 . PMID   15381766.
  13. 1 2 3 Europa Publications (2003). The International Who's Who 2004. Psychology Press. p. 443. ISBN   978-1-8574-3217-6.
  14. Donald, Athene (1977). Electron microscopy of grain boundary embrittled systems (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC   500427378.
  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. Bibcode:1993PhT....46k..87D. doi:10.1063/1.2809100. hdl:2060/19900017655.
  18. Windle, A.H.; Donald, A.D. (1992). Liquid crystalline polymers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-30666-9.
  19. University of Cambridge webpage
  20. List of publications from Microsoft Academic
  21. Starch: structure and functionality. Cambridge, England: Royal Society of Chemistry. 1997. ISBN   978-0-85404-742-0.
  22. The importance of polymer science for biological systems: University of York. Cambridge, England: Royal Society of Chemistry. March 2008. ISBN   978-0-85404-120-6.
  23. Physics, Institute of (2010). "2010 Faraday medal". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  24. Profile, Retrieved 6 May 2016. Archived 26 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  25. "Athene Donald-related articles" . Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  26. "Science Museum press release". Archived from the original on 14 November 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  27. "Scientific Council – ERC: European Research Council". Europa (web portal). Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  28. "Biological Physics". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  29. "Athene Donald announced as next President of the BSA". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  30. "Just one action for women in science". The Guardian. 19 June 2015. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  31. "Girls soar in science, yet why still so few women in the lab?". The Guardian. 15 March 2014. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  32. Physics, Institute of. "Professor Dame Athene Donald receives Lifetime Achievement Award". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  33. "Suffrage Science 2013 Events – MRC Clinical Sciences Centre". Archived from the original on 24 October 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  34. "Should I Be Discombobulated?". Athene Donald blogsite. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  35. Cook, Alan (2000). "URFs become FRS: Frances Ashcroft, Athene Donald and John Pethica". Notes and Records of the Royal Society. 54 (3): 409–411. doi:10.1098/rsnr.2000.0181.
  36. Physics, Institute of. "Moseley medal recipients". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  37. Physics, Institute of. "Mott medal recipients". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  38. "Athene Donald: "The mesoscopic world – from plastic bags to brain disease – structural similarities in physics"". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  39. Women in Science laureate picks up award, Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  40. Hoffmann, Ilire Hasani, Robert. "Academy of Europe: Donald Athene". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  41. "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 6.
  42. Physics, Institute of. "2010 Faraday medal". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  43. "UKRC web page". Archived from the original on 1 November 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  44. Honorary Doctorate of Science
  45. University of Exeter: honorary graduates (2012). Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  46. "Athletics coach who inspired Olympic glory is awarded honorary degree". The University of Sheffield. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
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  48. "Professor Athene M Donald DBE FRS". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  49. "UCL Honorary Graduands and Fellows 2014". University College London. 2014-09-11. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  50. "Prof Athene Donald presents the 2014 Rideal Award Lecture". Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  51. "Edinburgh Campus graduations". Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  52. "Honorary graduands". University of Manchester. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  53. Liverpool, University of; 7zx, L69. "University honours Marina Dalglish and Professor Dame Athene Donald – University of Liverpool" . Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  54. "University of Bradford: News". Retrieved 23 February 2016.[ permanent dead link ]
  55. Leeds, University of; 7zx, L69. "University honours Professor Dame Athene Donald – University of Leeds" . Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  56. Bath, University of; 7zx, L69. "University honours Professor Dame Athene Donald – University of Bath" . Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  57. "A Many-Minds Interpretation of Quantum Theory". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir David Wallace
Master of Churchill College
2014 -
Succeeded by