Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Role Models

Athene Donald

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Professor Dame Athene Donald, DBE, FRS

Awards: Institute of Physics CV Boys Prize 1989; Institute of Physics Mott Prize 2005; L'Oreal/UNESCO Women in Science award, 2009; Institute of Physics Faraday Medal 2010; UKRC’s Women of Outstanding Achievement's Lifetime Achievement Award, 2011.


After undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Cambridge, Athene 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. Her research has applied microscopy, and in particular Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy to the study of both synthetic and biological systems, notably protein aggregation.

She is a fellow of Robinson College, director of WiSETI, the University's Women in Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative, and the University's Gender Equality Champiion. Outside the university, she chairs the Athena Forum, 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 (STEMM) in UK higher education. She is also a member of the ESPCI ParisTech Scientific Committee 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, and was appointed a Trustee of the National Museum of Science in Industry in 2011.

She was one of the five recipients of the 2009 L'Oreal/UNESCO Women in Science award. She also won the UKRC’s Women of Outstanding Achievement's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours.

In 2012, Professor Dame Athene received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the Universities of East Anglia and Exeter.

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