Suraj Sharma, an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, gives students hands-on learning experiences through his product development course, which challenges students to enhance their entrepreneurial skills.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my doctorate degree in materials science and engineering from Clemson University. I earned my undergraduate and master’s degrees in textile engineering from the University of Rajasthan and Indian Institute of Technology Delhi in India.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I joined UGA in fall 2008 as an assistant professor of textile science. The department has produced several faculty researchers who have contributed to the textile science field by serving industries and communities in the state of Georgia. With this legacy in mind, and being aware of UGA’s status as the oldest land-grant research university, it was fulfilling and rewarding for me to move from Clemson to Athens.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I especially enjoy teaching undergraduate core courses such as textiles and textile testing. I like the rigor of these courses, which are prerequisites for our fashion merchandising and furnishings and interiors majors. Additionally, product development is a favorite course. In this course, students work on a stage-gate system to develop a product by participating in various activities such as business plan development, concept generation and economics. This course challenges students to become productive by garnering entrepreneurial skills and going through a structured process.
What interests you about your field?
I am interested in how technology and science have contributed tremendously to the advancement of textiles to bring radical changes to the lives of consumers, not only by providing a portable, comfortable environment but also by crossing the barriers to deep space exploration.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I feel like I’ve developed strong research in the field of renewable biomaterials; I’ve also collaborated with a startup known as Algix LLC to take UGA-based bioplastic technology to the commercial level. Receiving recognition in UGA Research magazine (http://issuu.com/ugaresearch/docs/ugaresearch_spring14/29?e=1854225/8099657) as well as in FACS magazine (http://issuu.com/ugafacs/docs/facs_magazine_final/1) also was a highlight, as is witnessing the ongoing achievement of former and current students at various scientific venues such as the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, as well as working with curious high school students through the Young Dawgs program at UGA.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I introduce students to tangible and non-tangible aspects of textiles, which is essentially the manifestation of materials and their structures. This allows them to think outside of the box and become inquisitive.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
I hope my students will appreciate the importance of textiles for their professional career. Some of them fall in love with the science while pursuing the research, developing a fascination for smart and functional textiles. I also hope they learn to develop resiliency and persistence while working in group settings.
Describe your ideal student.
Hard-working and willing to go the extra mile; critical thinker and analytical mind; team player and dependable; self-driven.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
Enjoying the periodicals at the science library; enjoying the landscaping of the university as well as various sustainability measures (rain gardens, Lily Branch, turtle pond) initiated by the university.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
Visit the State Botanical Garden and nearby parks, where I—along with my family— feel connected to nature and get good exercise through walking.
Community/civic involvement includes….
Conducting workshops and holding sessions at various summer leadership conferences for Georgia teachers; nurturing young scientists at science fairs through judging.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
“Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell. The indomitable courage and sacrifice by Navy SEALs is both inspiring and heartbreaking. The computer-animated comedy film “The Croods” is another favorite. You feel the supportive and loving atmosphere of a family against any challenge.
Proudest moment at UGA?
Witnessing and mentoring a high school student’s journey to our graduate program was the proudest moment. And of course, the graduation of my first doctoral student this fall.
Originally published Aug. 23, 2015