Year 12 Oxbridge Programmes / New Year 13 Interview Programmes
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You might be curious about Materials Science, but unsure where to start. It’s difficult to know where to begin exploring anything, let alone a subject that is less a single discipline and more a loosely-gathered conglomerate of materials-related areas.

Conveniently, we have here a list of books recommended by current Oxford Materials Science books. They are designed to give you an overview of the subject, so you can work out if it’s really for you. They’re also brilliant material for your personal statement.

Mark Midownik – Stuff Matters: The Strange Stories of the Marvellous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World

Mark Miodownik’s book is certainly the most accessible of the works listed here, and I would recommend it as a great entry point into materials science. One key takeaway is the manner in which Midownik describes his view of the world. Before the interview period, try to view things around you in the same light.

Philip Ball – Made to Measure: New Materials for the 21st Century

I read this book in the summer holiday before interviews and found it fascinating. It is very readable and covers some of the more technological advances in materials.

Inigo H, Materials Science, Oxford

Made to Measure explores a wide range of technological advances, including details about a light-activated walking table! Also, bear in mind that it was written in 1999 – just think how advanced research must be now, 20 years down the line!

Rodney Cotterill – The Material World

This is an extremely detailed book that covers loads of the different concepts essential to Materials Science, spanning from supernova to consciousness and everything in between. It is a great way to begin to adopt the standpoint of a materials scientist. The fact that it doesn’t go into too much mathematical detail makes it all the more accessible and more enjoyable. 

J. E. Gordon – The New Science of Strong Materials, or Why You Don’t Fall Through the Floor

Gordon is definitely more on the engineering side of materials and this comes through in his book. It is like Made to Measure in the way that the world is presented from a materials perspective in a very readable fashion.

John Martin – Materials for Engineering

This book covers more of the hard maths and engineering aspects of materials science, as well as the properties of materials. It is not as easy to read as the others but is worth a skim if you can get a copy. One of the best parts about this book is that each section ends with a series of questions that are worth using as practice questions before the interview.


Taking a look at any of these is a great idea, even if you only get the chance to flick through or read a single chapter. If any particularly interest you, take a more in-depth look, and consider talking about it on your personal statement. Reading around the subject is always a good idea; it will give you more comfort and fluency in talking about materials science, which is incredibly useful for when you’re interviewed on a subject you’ve probably never formally studied before.

For more ideas about exploring Materials Science, take a look at our guide to your Materials Science personal statement, which is full of great ideas for demonstrating your passion for the subject.