TAMPA, Fla. — It’s amazing where a curious mind can take a person.

What You Need To Know

  • The Florida Inventors Hall of Fame has nominated Dr. Sylvia Thomas and Dr. Daniel Yeh, two USF professors, for its 2024 class

  • The Hall of Fame was founded in 2013 and designed to honor the innovative and bright minds in Florida

  • They will be honoring the inductees with a gala in October and their likeness will be on plaques placed on a walkway on USF's campus

Dr. Sylvia Thomas had no idea what her life would look like in 2024, when she was growing up in Mississippi.

“I like to say that I have a spirit of discovery and I’ve always had that and love it,” Thomas, the vice president for research and innovation at USF, said.

It’s why, even now, her favorite place to be is in her lab at USF.

The Advanced Membrane Materials Research Integration Lab, or AMBIR Lab, is where Thomas, her colleagues and students work on and create some amazing things.

“The excitement of the unknown and the possibility of discovering something you never would have imagined,” Thomas said.

For example, they’ve utilized nanofiber membranes in a way that can help glucose sensing for diabetics or create a filter for bacteria and E. Coli in water.

“It’s such a diverse area that it’s applicable across the interdisciplinary world where I can work with a material scientist, I can work with a chemist, I can work with a medical engineer, aerospace engineer,” she said.

Her work makes a difference in the world and now, the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame, which is located on campus at USF, is taking notice by honoring Thomas as one of this year’s inductees.

The hall of fame was founded in 2013 and has honored and highlighted the inspirational work of inventors throughout the Sunshine State.

This year, they didn’t have to look too far to see some of the amazing work being created by a scholar like Thomas.

“I was just overwhelmed with joy and thinking about as an African American woman and how impactful this is to younger generations,” Thomas said.

Soon, she and the other honorees will have a plaque with their likeness placed on a walkway on campus.

“It’s actually pretty cool,” said Dr. Daniel Yeh, an environmental engineering professor at USF. “I mean, because, every time you walk by, right? You look at one of the inventors, you learn something new. Like I said, it’s this disbelief being considered to be at the same position as these individuals.”

Yeh is one of the other 2024 inductees.

He, like Thomas, was honored to be considered, let alone selected.

His creation, which has been about 20 years in the making, is the “NewGenerator,” which can do things like recycle wastewater into clean water for communities that lack infrastructure to have effective wastewater treatment.

His work is now being used in places like India and South Africa.

“That’s the type of stuff you dream about, that your research can have impact,” Yeh said. “And people are basically picking up your invention and doing something with it and trying to bring that to scale.”

Inventions inspired by curiosity leading to life-changing results for our world from two hall of famers.

The hall of fame will have its gala to celebrate honorees like Thomas and Yeh on Oct. 25.