Athene Donald did her first and second degrees in Cambridge. After 4 years postdoctoral experience in the USA she returned to Cambridge. She became a Professor in 1998 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. Her research is in the general field of soft matter and physics at the interface of biology; she has published over 250 papers in these fields. She has chaired many committees within Cambridge and beyond and has served on University Council (2009-14) and as the University Gender Equality Champion (2010-14). She was (2013-18) a member of the Scientific Council of the ERC and has been a Trustee of the Science Museum until 2016 and is still a member of their Scientific Advisory Board.
She chaired the Scientific Advisory Board of DCMS (2015-17) and is the Chair of REF2021 Interdisciplinary Advisory Board. As well as various prizes from the IOP and Royal Society, and the award of a number of Honorary Degrees, she won the 2009 L'Oreal/Unesco Laureate for Europe award. She was appointed DBE in the 2010 Birthday Honours for services to Physics. She took up the role of Master of Churchill College in October 2014.