Professor Dame Athene Donald is director of the biologicalphysics.iop.org project. She is based in the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, site of many important discoveries – including Watson and Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA. Having trained as a physicist, she began to study biological systems using techniques from physics. These tools, rarely used by biologists or chemists, enabled her to understand biological processes in new ways by exploring their mechanical rather than chemical properties.

Here Professor Donald explains her current work on protein aggregation, where she is researching how malfunctioning proteins clump together. She and her team identify the structures formed and try to link them to the damage they cause. As a physicist, her approach is to first try to understand the process in a simple model then extend it to the diseased state, for example, in Altzheimer's disease.