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Two USF faculty members receive honors from National Academy of Inventors

Dr. Barry Bercu and Dr. Sylvia Thomas were recognized for their breakthrough discoveries and inventions advancing diagnosis and treatment for challenging diseases.

The professors earn one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for academic inventors

Two University of South Florida faculty members, recognized for their breakthrough discoveries and inventions in the diagnosis and treatment of challenging diseases, are among the 2022 Fellows elected to the National Academy of Inventors. Election to NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors.

They are Dr. Barry Bercu, USF Morsani College of Medicine professor of pediatrics emeritus and professor of molecular pharmacology and physiology; and Sylvia W. Thomas, College of Engineering professor and interim vice president for research & innovation.

“We are honored that two University of South Florida professors are being recognized for their pursuit of innovation with this distinguished award,” USF President Rhea Law said. “The inventions developed by these researchers are making a tremendous impact in science, technology, engineering and health, and they are helping to advance society and make lives better.”

The two new Fellows from USF are among 169 distinguished academic inventors. The 2022 class represents 110 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide, and they collectively hold more than 5,000 issued U.S. patents. They will be formally recognized in June at the NAI’s 2023 annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Meet this year’s honorees:

Barry Bercu

Barry B. Bercu, M.D.
Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology and Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus
USF Morsani College of Medicine

Bercu is internationally recognized as a visionary pioneer who helped launch the era of genetic engineering for drugs and vaccines. He was part of the landmark group of academic pediatric endocrinologists who created the original clinical biosynthetic human growth hormone protocol for the first biosynthetic recombinant DNA products. He was first to demonstrate that chemical substances outside the hypothalamus can potentially regulate pituitary melanocyte-stimulating hormone — a breakthrough discovery in neuroendocrinology. He was first to clinically describe (and coin the term) Growth Hormone Neurosecretory Dysfunction. He is also internationally recognized for his pioneering work discovering causes, and innovating novel treatments, for endocrine and viral diseases responsible for global pandemics and national epidemics. Bercu is also recognized for identifying what has become known in the scientific literature as the “Bercu patient” — a discovery providing unprecedented insights into an unusual inherited thyroid disorder. His expertise led him to longstanding service as an expert consultant for the U.S. departments of Justice and Health and Human Services. He is one of the founders of the NAI and has served continuously in both the national organization and the USF chapter in several leadership roles. He holds seven patents (five U.S., two foreign). He has published nearly 200 articles and book chapters, edited seven books, and served as guest editor for several journal publications; editorial board member of eight peer-reviewed scientific journals, and reviewer for 35 journals. Bercu is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Academy of Pediatrics and was elected to the distinguished American Pediatric Society as well as the Society for Pediatric Research.

Sylvia Wilson Thomas

Sylvia W. Thomas, Ph.D.
Professor of Electrical Engineering, USF College of Engineering
Interim Vice President for Research and Innovation

Thomas is a pioneering researcher whose national leadership and advocacy is opening the field of engineering to historically underrepresented students. Her innovative scientific work has led the frontier of development of low cost, low power, miniaturized electronic circuitry and advanced materials to support biosensors (both wearable and implantable) for more effective real-time health monitoring. She has also developed innovative nanomaterials for flexible electronics, and nanostructures for sustainable energy, water, and health care systems. Thomas additionally has more than 12 years of industry experience with companies and organizations including Agere Systems (formerly Lucent Bell Labs), Kimberly Clark Corp., IBM and Procter & Gamble. Through her contributions with Agere/Lucent Bell Labs, her patents on thick metal inductors for memory devices and metal-oxide-metal capacitors for semiconductor devices have touched thousands of consumers when implemented into the Lucent Bell Lab technologies. She is the recipient of the Black Engineer of the Year STEM Educational Leadership Award for College-level Promotion of Education. She holds 11 U.S. patents. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, proceedings and presentations, six book chapters, and received more than $4.8 million in research funding. Thomas is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, IEEE Senior Member and NAI Senior Member.

The NAI was founded at USF in 2010 and since has grown to boast a membership of more than 200 institutions in the U.S. and around the world. 

The complete list of NAI Fellows is available here.

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Learn more about USF research by viewing articles from past years (2010-2019).

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