Institute for Advanced Discovery & Innovation


Institute Director

Headshot of Dr. Sylvia Thomas

Dr. Sylvia Wilson Thomas is Vice President for Research & Innovation at the University of South Florida, Professor in Electrical Engineering where she leads the Advanced Materials Bio and Integration Research (AMBIR) laboratory, and the Director of the USF Institute for Advanced Discovery and Innovation (IADI). She previously served as Assistant Dean of the College of Engineering at USF. Dr. Thomas' research and teaching endeavors are focused on the investigation of bio (biomedical, biological) and nano electronic device integration using advanced material systems for nano membrane technology, energy harvesting, sustainable environments, drug delivery, and bio-applications to meet global technological challenges. With over 25 years of global experience in academia and industry, Dr. Thomas has authored or co-authored over 50 publications and six book/book chapters. She holds 12 patents/pending patents and has received over $4M in funding. Her involvement and constant dedication to STEM education, diversity, and professional development have led to her recognition in local and national news and publications, including Top 50 Women Leaders in Education, Guide to Florida's High Tech Corridor magazine, "The Faces of Technology"; St. Petersburg Times, "Recruiter, Role Model, Engineer"; the United Nations-NGO Briefing on "Girls and Technology: New Educational Opportunities"; and Electronic Design 50th Anniversary Issue among others. Over the course of her distinguished career, she has been recognized with a number of prestigious awards including, National Academy of Inventors Fellow, USF Undergraduate Teaching Award, Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Faculty Research Award, STEM Woman of the Year Award from Pinellas County Girls Inc., USF Graduate Faculty Mentor Award, McKnight Junior Faculty Fellow and more. Dr. Thomas holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University, where she was a Patricia Roberts Harris Fellow. She received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Howard University, as an NSF Materials Research Center of Excellence Fellow and was a National Science Foundation (NSF) research engineer in Korea at Chonbuk National University during her doctoral program.

Institute Manager

Colleen Parker

Colleen Parker is Assistant Program Director for the USF Faculty Honors Program, and Program Manager for the USF Institute for Advanced Discovery and Innovation (IADI). She leads and manages all strategic initiatives and recruitment for the Institute, and is liaison for the Institute to the university and the wider community, including developing relationships at local, state, national, and international levels, and intra-university collaborations. She also directs the functional, technical, logistical and communications operations for the Faculty Honors Program and the USF I-Corps Site program. Originally from Oregon and New York, she joined USF in 2015, following nearly two decades in senior level positions in proprietary education and information technology solutions firms. She earned her B.A. in International Studies from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. In addition to her work at USF, she volunteers as President of Seminole Heights Community Gardens.

Institute Research Services Administrator

Kelsey Deck

Kelsey Deck, Research Services Administrator – Kelsey Deck joined USF in 2017 and is responsible for financial and logistical coordination as well as communications for the Institute. She also works on a wide array of additional initiatives for USF Research & Innovation and in 2019 received the USF Quiet Quality Award. She holds a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

Institute Founder

Paul Sanberg

Dr. Paul R. Sanberg is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, USF Morsani College of Medicine and the Founder of the Institute. He was also former Senior Vice President for Research & Innovation at USF, where he has worked for 32 years. He was one of the original pioneers in the discovery and use of adult stem cells to repair the brain and nervous system. He helped lead the team who found that stem cells could be safely and ethically obtained from human umbilical cord blood, and developed procedures for intravenous delivery that could penetrate the blood-brain barrier. His research also revealed brain areas damaged by stroke or neurological disease were able to be regenerated—a discovery reversing centuries of scientific understanding. He is a highly cited author, and his more than 700 articles and 14 books have received more than 40,000 citations. He has been granted 170 U.S. and foreign patents, a number of which have been licensed, and developed many pharmaceutical and cellular therapeutics based on his research. He holds numerous awards for his work, including being named Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors; American Association for the Advancement of Science; Sigma Xi; American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering; IEEE; Biomedical Engineering Society; Royal Societies of Chemistry, Public Health, Biology and Medicine; American Psychological Association; International Behavioral Neuroscience Society; and American Society for Neural Therapy and Repair. He has also received significant awards including the George F. McClure Citation of Honor from IEEE-USA, and a Pioneer Award from the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame, of which he is an Inductee. He is the founder and President of the National Academy of Inventors. He earned his B.S. degree, with honors, from York University (Canada); his M.S. degree from the University of British Columbia (Canada); and his Ph.D. and D.Sc. degrees from the Australian National University.

Contact USF IADI 

USF Institute for Advanced Discovery & Innovation
3702 Spectrum Boulevard, Suite 165
Tampa, Florida 33612-9445

Colleen Parker, Institute Manager
Phone: +1-813-974-5169