Professor Dame Athene Donald

Athene Donald

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Job title: Professor of Experimental Physics
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Tags: RISE, RISE: Fellow, University of Cambridge

After completing a first and second degree at the University of Cambridge Professor Dame Donald went on to work at Cornell University for four years as a post-doc focussing on polymers research. Since returning to the UK she has remained at the University of Cambridge and is a Professor of Experimental Physics. Professor Dame Donald became one of the first generation of Royal Society University Research Fellows in 1985 and in 1999 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. As well as various prizes from the IOP and Royal Society, she won the 2009 L'Oreal / Unesco Laureate for Europe award. She was appointed DBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours for services to Physics

What has influenced your career path?

In many ways chance and opportunity have probably been major influences. At various points I have switched direction fairly substantially due to external factors (funding availability in particular) but I have always found interesting challenges wherever my research has taken me. Certain themes have been constant - notably the use of different sorts of microscopy and exploring structure-property relationships - but the kinds of samples I have looked at have varied from synthetic polymers, food biopolymers and, most recently, cell lines.

How did you get to where you are today?

Luck, hard work, not being frightened to take on new challenges by switching fields or to work in less-than-traditional areas, a degree of bloody-mindedness plus an immensely supportive husband who took on the majority of childcare, meeting children at school etc.

What advances in science and technology would you like to see - or would you like to have been part of?

I think a key challenge is going to be improved, high resolution imaging of deep within the human body without the use of ionising radiation. I think additionally there is a lot that physics can offer to understanding what happens during the spreading of cancer.