University of South Florida


Announcing a new leader for the USF Office of Research

Dear USF faculty and staff, 

The strength of USF’s research enterprise remains one of the most important factors in the university’s upward trajectory. It is also a critical component of the student experience, enriching their education through real-world, relevant applications. USF now ranks in the top 50 universities, public or private, for research expenditures, and is poised to continue climbing and make a global impact through research and innovation.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Sylvia Wilson Thomas as interim vice president for research, effective today. Dr. Thomas will report directly to me as a member of my cabinet. Her background as a researcher, administrator and faculty member in electrical engineering with 12 patents/patent disclosures; over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, proceedings and presentations; six book chapters; over $4.8 million in research funding; and more than 25 years of global experience in academia and industry, will bolster USF’s research excellence.

In this interim appointment, Dr. Thomas will be responsible for providing strategic leadership and acting as a catalyst for promoting and expanding impactful scholarly and creative activity by USF faculty researchers across all disciplines and campuses. Dr. Thomas will work in close partnership with me, the provost, the senior vice president of USF Health, college deans, regional chancellors, vice presidents, research staff and the Faculty Senate Research Council to advocate for and support research and scholarship that reflect faculty interests, student success, community engagement and institutional strategic priorities.

She will also develop strategies to increase the development and maintenance of core facilities and efficient processes, as well as faculty recruitment of researchers through the provision of competitive start-up packages and foster an environment to attract and grow external funding opportunities from federal, state, business, and private sources, including not-for-profit and philanthropic providers.

Dr. Thomas, in partnership with college deans, regional chancellors and vice presidents, will also assess the previously approved USF Research Task Force recommendations from December 2020 and consider recommendations of the USF Research Budget Planning Workgroup from April 2021.

Dr. Thomas is a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University, where she was a Patricia Roberts Harris Fellow. Dr. Thomas received her doctorate in electrical engineering from Howard University, as an NSF Materials Research Center of Excellence Fellow and was a National Science Foundation (NSF) East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes Research Fellow in Korea during her doctoral program. She conducts research for bio and electronic devices and diversity, equity and inclusion. Dr. Thomas is involved in various organizations, having served as the first female chair and Florida Senate appointee to the Florida Education Fund Board of Directors and the Engineering Workforce Commission of the American Association of Engineering Societies.

I appreciate Dr. Thomas’ willingness to accept this appointment and anticipate great success with her leadership. 

I’d like to thank Keith Anderson for serving as interim vice president for research, innovation & knowledge enterprise since January. We are grateful for his service to the university during this critical transition period and ensuring that USF’s strong momentum continued. Mr. Anderson will return to his role as assistant vice president for research, effective today.

I look forward to our ongoing work together to position One USF for a bright future. 


Rhea F. Law

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