AMES, Iowa — Following an international search, Akshay Sharma, associate professor of industrial design and recently the chair of the industrial design program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, will become the next chair of the Iowa State University Department of Industrial Design.

Sharma’s five-year, renewable appointment will begin June 1. Seda McKilligan, professor of industrial design and associate dean for academic programs in the College of Design, will continue to serve as interim chair of the industrial design department through May 31.

“Akshay’s passion for advancing student’s learning, experience supporting faculty and capacity to build bridges across disciplines and industries will, I’m sure, propel our Department of Industrial Design to even higher levels of excellence,” said College of Design Dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez.

Sharma chaired the Virginia Tech program from October 2017 through February 2021 and had served on the industrial design faculty from 2002–2016 before a stint as the senior manager for faculty fellows at Autodesk. He is a design team member of Virginia Tech’s Calhoun Discovery Program — a collaborative, interdisciplinary undergraduate honors program — and leads the university’s Industrial Design for Learning and Empowerment (ID4Learning) and study abroad initiatives.

Sharma currently teaches industrial design studios and courses in analog and digital design visualization, modeling and rendering. Using design as a catalyst for the empowerment of underrepresented groups, he has led award-winning, grant-funded interdisciplinary projects, including a microfinancing and financial literacy program for women in India; a smartphone system to track children’s vaccination records in developing nations; and a foot measurement system to help underprivileged amputees order free prosthetics.

Sharma received a bachelor of architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi, India, in 1996 and a master of science in design from Arizona State University in 2001. He is a member of the Industrial Designers Society of America and served as chair of the IDSA’s Design for Majority Section from 2011–2013. He has received multiple awards for teaching and outreach from the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies.


Luis Rico-Gutierrez, Design Administration, (515) 294-7427,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications,