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USF leads the nation with six faculty elected Senior Members of the National Academy of Inventors

Six USF faculty members elected senior members of the National Academy of Inventors

USF faculty members elected to the 2022 class of NAI Senior Members

Faculty from the College of Engineering, Morsani College of Medicine and College of The Arts are the new honorees from USF.

TAMPA – Six USF faculty members have been named by the National Academy of Inventors to its new class of Senior Members. No university in the country has more faculty named to this year’s class than USF. 

The newly elected faculty members have devoted their careers to inventing high-tech tools for a myriad of applications and blazing a trail for the next generation of innovators. Their work spans a range of research areas, including robotics, molecular microbiology and neuroscience.

With six selections, USF tied Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Houston for the most of any institution in the U.S. Three faculty members from the College of Engineering, two from the Morsani College of Medicine and one member from the College of The Arts are included in this newest class of Senior Members.

“The University of South Florida is a national leader in research and innovation, with world-class faculty who are discovering solutions to global problems and changing lives,” USF President Rhea Law said. “This diverse, distinguished group of faculty named senior members of the National Academy of Inventors have earned this recognition for dedicating their careers to improving our society.”

NAI Senior Members are active faculty, scientists and administrators from NAI member institutions who have demonstrated remarkable innovation producing technologies that have brought, or aspire to bring, real impact on the welfare of society. They also have proven success in patents, licensing and commercialization.

“Truly gifted innovators and inventors see their creations not only as something they’ve done, but also as a vision to move forward,” said Sylvia Thomas, interim vice president for research and innovation at USF. “All six of these outstanding USF faculty members are transforming the world, beyond its capabilities, and are inspiring the next generation of students and innovators into an even brighter future.”

The six new USF NAI Senior Members are listed below.

Rajiv Dubey

Rajiv Dubey

Rajiv Dubey, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Center for Assistive, Rehabilitation & Robotics Technologies (CARRT) at USF. His research interests include assistive robotics, prosthetics, rehabilitation engineering, and robotics in healthcare, space, undersea, and nuclear waste management. He has published over 275 referred articles and directed over 70 Ph.D. dissertations and MS theses. He has been issued six full U.S. patents. Dr. Dubey has received over $40 million in research funding as a Principal Investigator from various agencies, including NSF, NASA, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Education, and the private sector. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Loree Heller
Loree Heller

Loree C. Heller, Ph.D., is associate professor in the Department of Medical Engineering, a joint department between the Morsani College of Medicine and the College of Engineering at USF. Her research has focused on molecular microbiology, the evaluation of antibiotic alternatives and the bio-effects of gene therapies delivered by physical methods. She was the first to discover that complete tumor regression of solid tumors can occur when control backbone pDNA is electroporated into different tumor types. Her research has been funded by the NIH and other US federal agencies. She has patented research in molecular pathogen detection; her patents in gene therapy development have been licensed by two companies and include translation into clinical trials.

Merry Lynn Morris
Merry Lynn Morris

Merry Lynn Morris, MFA, Ph.D., is the interim chair for the Dance Program. She holds an MFA degree in Dance Performance and Choreography and a Ph.D. in Dance Studies. Her interdisciplinary work intersects with disability studies, design, architecture, engineering, and health sciences. Morris’ interest in the dance and disability community coalesced in her work, leading her to re-conceptualize the design of assistive technology from a dance perspective. Dr. Morris has been featured/interviewed by MSNBC, PBS, CNN, NPR’s Science Friday, the Reader’s Digest, and the Inventor’s Digest. She has worked collaboratively across the domains of dance and engineering to invent new mobility devices. Publications include 5 U.S. patents and over 45 scholarly research products—print and artistic.

Anna Pyayt
Anna Pyayt

Anna Pyayt, Ph.D., is associate professor in the Department of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering at USF. She is the head of the Innovative Biomedical Instruments and Systems (IBIS) Lab. She designed and developed many innovative systems and instruments including Telescopic Pixel display technology (a competitor to LCD) that was created in collaboration with Microsoft Research. The original publication was translated into more than 30 languages worldwide. She was also the first scientist to demonstrate a novel optical interconnect between a photonic and multiple plasmonic waveguides enabling fabrication of new biomedical nano-chips (published in Nature Nanotechnology). Dr. Pyayt has filed for several patents and started the company Hemolix LLC.

Juan Sanchez-Ramos
Juan Sanchez-Ramos

Juan Sanchez-Ramos, Ph.D., M.D., is the Helen Ellis Endowed Professor in the Department of Neurology at USF. His neuroscience research has included studies of drug dependence, toxicant-induced neurodegeneration, stem cell biology, and novel approaches for delivery of gene therapy. He was a member of the team organized by Dr. Nancy Wexler to study the large Venezuela Huntington’s Disease pedigree. That research, to which he contributed as a field neurologist conducting serial neuro exams, led to the discovery of the Huntington’s Disease gene in 1992. He has received numerous awards including an NIH Clinical Investigator Development Award to start his research lab, the Helen E. Ellis Endowed Chair for Parkinson's Disease Research, USF McNair Scholars Faculty Research Mentor Award, and the University of South Florida Outstanding Faculty Research Achievement Award. He has been awarded 8 U.S. patents and has over 300 publications to his credit.

Daniel Yeh
Daniel Yeh

Daniel Yeh, Ph.D., PE, BCEE, LEED AP, is professor of environmental engineering and leader of the Membrane Biotechnology Laboratory at USF, which focuses on research and development of innovative wastewater treatment and resource recovery technologies. One of his most impactful inventions is the NEWgenerator—a portable and self-contained solar-powered toilet system that converts the collected waste into renewable energy, fertilizer nutrients, and clean water that can be used for irrigation of crops. The NEWgenerator was selected for a 2011 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations grant, and has been deployed and commercialized in India and South Africa. In 2014, his team received the Cade Museum Prize for their invention of the NEWgenerator. To date, Dr. Yeh has published over 47 peer-reviewed journal papers and been issued seven U.S. patents.

Senior Members are elected biannually, and nominations are accepted on a rolling basis. Nominations are currently being accepted for the next Senior Member class.

“Today, these Senior Members, on their path of prolific discovery, join the NAI innovation community,” said Paul R. Sanberg FNAI, President of the NAI, “With the NAI Senior Member award distinction, we recognize and honor these innovators who are rising stars in their fields.”

A full list of NAI Senior Members is available on the NAI website.

About the University of South Florida

The University of South Florida, a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success, generates an annual economic impact of more than $6 billion. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at

About the National Academy of Inventors

The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 4,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate, and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society. The NAI has a close partnership with the USPTO and is one of three honorific organizations, along with the National Medals and National Inventors Hall of Fame, working closely with the USPTO on many discovery and innovation support initiatives. The NAI publishes the multidisciplinary journal, Technology and Innovation. Learn more at

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