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Athene Donald

7 Podcast Episodes

Latest 18 Jul 2021 | Updated Daily

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8. Athene Donald - a physicist of many passions

Smashing The Ceiling

My guest this week is a woman who has smashed through many a glass ceiling in the world of science with grace, endeavour and success. She is Dame Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at the University of Cambridge and the first ever female professor of physics at one of the most historic universities in the world.  Her mind is undoubtedly brilliant, and her capacity to unpick complex theories and principles that most of us wouldn’t have a hope in hell of understanding is legendary in her field, but she is more than just an academic working away on scientific research in a lab.  Athene is a massive advocate of increasing equality in science - in addition to her busy day job, she regularly gives talks and lectures to encourage girls into physics and, from 2010 to 2014 was the University of Cambridge’s very first Gender Equality Champion. She also writes a successful blog on the politics and economics of science, recently discussing everyday sexism, toxic environments in the workplace, and the impact of Brexit on diversity in academia to name a few. Athene is a fellow of the Royal Society, and has been awarded the Faraday Medal and the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. She has appeared on Desert Island Discs and was herself an accomplished viola player who performed extensively.  She joined me to discuss physics and feminism, amongst other topics!


2 Sep 2018

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#ScienceMamas podcast: Dame Athene Donald

Podcast – Science Mamas

If planning a career in academia, taking time to recover on maternity leave is no bad thing. “If you put things at work on a back-burner for a little while, you can step-up again later. That is totally fine.” Happy International Women’s Day 2018! To celebrate, Dame Athene Donald, professor of physics, fellow of the […]


8 Mar 2018

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Ep28: Women in Science – Athene Donald

Scientists not the Science

Professor Dame Athene Donald is a physicist at the University of Cambridge and advocate for women in science. We talk about the challenges women face, the impact of social media, and experiences from her career. Full show notes:


18 Apr 2016

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S02-EP04 - Athene Donald on women in science, scientists in politics and why Britain needs to stay in Europe.


This week we have instant reaction to the results from New Hampshire, plus we start to talk seriously about whether Britain might vote to leave the EU. Our guest is Dame Athene Donald, scientist and campaigner, who tells us what politicians get wrong about science and why it's still not a level playing field for women. And for anyone who's still confused, we have a quick primer on how the US primary system actually works.  See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Become a member at https://plus.acast.com/s/talkingpolitics.


11 Feb 2016

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Athene Donald

Private Passions

Dame Athene Donald is one of our leading physicists, and an outstanding role model and campaigner for women in science. She is Master of Churchill College, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge, and as the new head of the British Science Association, she has already made waves suggesting that girls should be given Meccano in preference to Barbie dolls to encourage them into science. It's physics with a clear practical end - the physics of the everyday - which is her passion. Her expertise lies in developing techniques to study 'soft' materials: the way paint particles stick together, or what happens to things when you cook them, or more recently, the generic way protein molecules stick together, which, for some very specific proteins, is the process which underlies Alzheimer's disease. A life-long promoter of women in science, she is a recipient of the L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in Europe and writes a popular and entertaining blog about science, women, the wider world, and sometimes music too. A talented viola player, she considered a career in music as a teenager, and her choice of music reflects her continued love of the instrument: Bach's 6th Brandenburg Concerto, Janacek's Second String Quartet, known as 'Intimate Letters', and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola which she played with her husband, a mathematician - and violinist.Keen to promote women in music as well as women in science, she's also chosen music by the French composer Lili Boulanger. Producer: Jane GreenwoodA Loftus Production for BBC Radio 3.


4 Oct 2015

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Athene Donald

The Life Scientific

When she started her career, physicist Dame Athene Donald took a decision that shocked her colleagues. She wanted to apply the strict rules of physics to the messy, complicated world of biology. Since then, she has taken the field of biological physics out of an unfashionable rut in the 1980s, and helped to turn into one of the most exciting and promising areas in science today. As Professor of Experimental Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge University, she studies the microscopic structure of everyday stuff, from plants to plastics. Jim Al-Khalili talks to Athene about her life and her passionate campaign to get more women working in science. Producer: Michelle Martin


4 Jun 2013

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Athene Donald

Desert Island Discs: Archive 2005-2010

Kirsty Young's castaway this week is the scientist Athene Donald. A Cambridge professor and fellow of the Royal Society, she has dedicated much of her life to studying everyday objects like plastic, food or plants. Her enthusiasm is so strong that, at her daughter's eleventh birthday party, she couldn't resist describing the structure of melting ice-cream - it was a rare case of misjudging her audience. By her own admission she is a workaholic - but she also champions the cause of women who want to become scientists and have families too. Her great triumph was to marry a supportive husband and after that, she says, the trick is learning how to cut corners: there are no 'dainty dinner parties' at her home, and she makes sure her clothes are machine washable and easy-iron.[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]Favourite track: The Dies Irae (from Requiem) by Wolfgang Amadeus MozartBook: The Lymond Novels by Dorothy DunnettLuxury: A bat.


22 Mar 2009