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Cambridge University Science Magazine

Materials science is the most important subject that no one has heard of. Experts often use this joke to introduce the topic. But the science of materials underpins our modern lives, without which we would have no skyscrapers, planes, or phones. Dr Anna Ploszajski sets out on a journey to understand this crucial subject in her book Handmade: A Scientist’s Search for Meaning through Making. 

Rather than merely dictating why we should care or rewriting textbook definitions, Ploszajski invites us to join her own journey of discovery. As a materials scientist by training, Ploszajski realised that while she could recite formulas, she felt disconnected from the materials themselves. So, she set out to learn from masters of their crafts: blacksmiths, clay workers, glassmakers, and build a narrative around how different materials fit into our society. Each chapter is dedicated to one material, the history and importance of which Ploszajski weaves seamlessly with her own experiences for example, how working with supposedly simple clay led to advanced technologies and also helped Ploszajski recover from depression.

Handmade is not just a popular science book but a tale of how human stories and craftsmanship underpin the materials we use every day. 

Bethan Charles