Iowa State appoints new industrial design chair


Akshay Sharma has been selected as the new chair of the industrial design department.

Owen Pasa

After a long hunt, Akshay Sharma was selected to be appointed chair of the Iowa State industrial design department.

Sharma is currently a professor and serves as a chair of Virginia Tech’s design department. Sharma’s five-year renewable appointment at Iowa State is set to begin July 1.

Born in India, Sharma received his undergraduate degree in architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi. Sharma then moved to the state in 1999 to continue his education in graduate school at Arizona State University. 

“I really don’t believe my education stops,” Sharma said about his view on education. “Even though I am not formally enrolled in a program, I try to learn something new every six months.”

However, Sharma didn’t go straight into academia. After graduation, he worked for three years at a design firm in San Diego, working with banks to design ATM machines and other bank-related equipment. Although he said he was very happy with his job, after taking a trip to Virginia Tech for further training, he fell in love with the idea of teaching.

“It was a series of strange events,” he said. “… I came to university for a visit and fell in love with the idea of 200 students learning in a single space. I realized when I was teaching students I was also teaching myself. The human connection is what brought me to academia.”

During his time at Virginia Tech, Sharma taught a wide variety of classes focusing on both entrepreneurship and design classes, such as IDS 2065.

Sharma also taught a lot of collaboration classes while at Virginia Tech and helped with many project-based study abroad programs. Project-based study abroad programs are when a student designs a product to tackle a problem in another country, spends the fall designing the project and then goes to the country in the spring to see how far off they are and to see how they can improve the design with the end goal of developing a product that can help solve a problem in a country of need.

“I don’t have a vision unless I come there and see the culture and strengths of the program; until you get the buy-in from the faculty and the students, no visions will work,” Sharma said. “I don’t want to sit in my office. I want to be in the studio and part of the action.”

He hopes to make as many connections with his students and faculty as possible and plans to still teach courses in his semester at Iowa State.