University of South Florida


Two students walk underneath a walkway that says, Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.

A USF alumna also is included among this year’s group of inductees

Two USF faculty innovators selected for the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame

By Kevin Watler, University Communications and Marketing

Two highly accomplished University of South Florida faculty members have been named to the 2024 class of the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame announced today. USF engineering professors Sylvia Wilson Thomas and Daniel Yeh are among the nine inductees in this year’s class receiving the prestigious honor for their notable contributions to scientific and technological advancements. USF alumna Rachana Vidhi was also selected for the hall of fame.

“The Class of 2024 represents the best of innovation in Florida, and their achievements underscore the critical role that innovation plays in driving progress and improving the quality of life for people in our state, our nation and around the world.  Their groundbreaking work not only advances scientific discovery but also strengthens the economy and enhances our global competitiveness," said Paul R. Sanberg, chair of the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame Advisory Board and president of the National Academy of Inventors.

Sylvia Thomas wearing a lab coat and working with lab equipment.

Sylvia Wilson Thomas

Thomas, a decorated professor of electrical engineering who now serves as USF vice president for research & innovation and president and CEO of the USF Research Foundation, has opened new pathways for bio and nano electronic device integration with her pioneering research in advanced membrane/material systems. Thomas, who holds 13 U.S. patents, is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors, and a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. She is also the recipient of the 2020 Black Engineer of the Year STEM Educational Leadership Award.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected for induction into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame,” Thomas said. “The USF innovation ecosystem has expanded the breadth of my research and deepened my career-long commitment to creating and championing technologies that make a positive impact on society.” 

Daniel Yeh standing in front of his NEWgenerator technology

Daniel Yeh with his NEWgenerator technology.

Yeh, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at USF, is an international leader in the fields of wastewater recycling, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, renewable bioenergy, and global WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene). Most notably, Yeh and his team pioneered the NEWgenerator, a portable and self-contained solar-powered toilet system that converts collected human waste into fertilizer nutrients, renewable energy and clean water that can be used for crop irrigation and toilet flushing.  The award-winning invention, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been commercialized in India and South Africa and featured by numerous major media outlets.

“It is truly a privilege to be inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame,” Yeh said. “The recognition is a tribute to the dedication, perseverance and creativity of the amazing groups of students, postdocs and partners that I have worked with over the past 20 years at USF. As an environmental engineer, I hope the induction will help draw further awareness to the needs of billions around the world, including tens of millions in the United States, who still suffer from inadequate infrastructure for water and sanitation.”

Vidhi, who holds a doctoral degree in chemical engineering from USF, is currently the director of technical sales at NextEra Analytics, where she is responsible for identifying and implementing software solutions to assist customers across various stages of the energy ecosystem, driving efficiency and sustainability. Vidhi holds nine U.S. patents. She has received a number of awards including the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from USF’s College of Engineering. 

The 2024 inductees collectively hold more than 350 U.S. patents, showcasing their creativity, determination, and the remarkable contributions they've made to progress, economic growth and societal advancement.

Since its inception in 2013, the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame, which is located on the USF campus in Tampa, has inducted 77 inventors and seeks to inspire future generations of inventors and foster a culture of innovation across the state of Florida.

The 2024 class of distinguished inventors will be formally inducted at an October ceremony and gala in Tampa. 

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