Anna Ploszajski


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Photograph: Steve Cross


Assistant: Olivia Davies


Dr Anna Ploszajski is an award-winning materials scientist, engineer and communicator. By day, Anna is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Making, researching 4D printing and metamaterials. By night she communicates materials science on stage, on radio, on TV and on the page. In 2017 she was named Young Engineer of the Year by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and in 2018 won the Silver Medal from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. In her spare time, Anna plays the trumpet in a funk and soul covers band and she swam the English Channel in July 2018. Oh, and it’s pronounced “Por-shy-ski”.

Forthcoming Book;

HANDMADE: A Scientist's Search for Meaning Through Making - Bloomsbury - 7th May 2021

From atomic structures to theories about magnetic forces, scientific progress has given us a good grasp on the properties of many different materials. However, most scientists cannot measure the temperature of steel just by looking at it, or sculpt stone into all kinds of shapes, or know how it feels to blow up a balloon of glass. Handmade is the story of materials through making and doing. Author and materials scientist Anna Ploszajski journeys into the domain of makers and craftspeople to comprehend how the most popular materials really work. With knowledge accumulated over generations through hands-on trial and error, these experimenters and tinkerers understand the materiality of objects far better than any scientist with a textbook.
Anna has the fresh perspective of someone at the forefront of the field. Each chapter centres around an everyday material and features Anna’s accounts of learning from masters of their respective crafts. Along the way, she builds a fuller picture of materials and their place in society, as well as how they have intersected with her own life experiences – from land speed racing on American salt flats to swimming the English Channel. She visits a blacksmith artist to see, hear, smell and strike steel herself, explores how working with one of the most primal of materials, clay, has brought about some of the most advanced technologies, and delves down to the atomic scale of glass to find out what makes it ‘glassy’. Handmade affords us a new understanding of the materials we encounter every day, and an appreciation for the skills needed to fashion them into objects that are perfectly formed for the jobs they do.
‘By meeting with makers and playing with materials, Anna creates a beautiful picture of what these substances really feel like and what they are capable of. This book will make all your senses tingle.’ Roma Agrawal, structural engineer and author of Built
‘This book is a wonderful journey through the art and science of materials… beautifully crafted and very personal. Highly recommended to anyone who loves “stuff” and is curious enough to want to delve into its inner secrets.’ Mark Miodownik, materials scientist, broadcaster and Director of the Institute of Making
‘Captivating… Anna brings materials to life, and shines a light on the people who work with them everyday.’ Lucy Rogers, Professor of Engineering and founder of The Guild of Makers
‘Brimming with curiosity and humanity, I devoured this book. An extraordinary account of a life through materials; I’ll never look at a mini roll in the same way again.’ Andrew Smyth, aerospace engineer and baker
‘Handmade is an extraordinary mirrorball of facts that casts a sparkling light on the everyday materials that surround us and reveals them to be exceptional, fascinating, and full of stories.’ Stefan Gates, food scientist and author of Gastronaut
‘Deeply personal… showcasing the fascinating science of materials as well as their artistic versatility.’ Clara Barker, materials scientist, University of Oxford