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Voices of Impact from the Public (VIP): An Ethical Perspective

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Ethics and Technology

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1466.1 - 25.1466.18



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Paper Authors


Sylvia W. Thomas University of South Florida

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Sylvia Wilson Thomas is currently an Assistant Professor in electrical engineering at USF in Tampa, Fla. She has more than 20 years of industrial and academic experience, assisting in the success of such companies and organizations as Bell Labs/Lucent Technologies, advancing analog/backend technology, Kimberly Clark Corporation process engineering, IBM, Procter & Gamble, the National GEM Consortium, and ITT Technical Institute. Thomas leads the Advanced Materials Bio & Integration Research (AMBIR) group at USF. Her research motivation is focused on the characterization and development of novel materials for biomedical/biological applications and energy integration. Projects in her laboratory include thin film and nanofiber material growth and characterization for biocompatible RF and energy harvesting devices; nanolaminated materials for thermal energy storage; and nanofiber filters, sensors, and channels. Currently, she is advising four undergraduates, two M.S. students, and five Ph.D. students. Her expertise/laboratory capabilities include chemical vapor deposition (CVD); atomic layer deposition (ALD); electrospinning; material/film characterization: AFM, XRD, SEM, TEM, C-V measurements, and FTIR; and device fabrication: sensors, capacitors, inductors, filters, and detectors, working at the Nanotechnology Research and Education Center (NREC) facility, Thomas holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt University, where she was a Patricia Roberts Harris Fellow. Thomas received her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Howard University, as a NSF Materials Research Center of Excellence Fellow. Thomas was a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Engineer in Korea at Chonbuk National University. She holds two patents in microelectronics processing for thick metal inductors and encapsulation and has recently filed three new disclosures in the application of advanced materials for bio and sustainable energy technologies. She has received more than $1.5 million in NSF funding and is the lead Principal Investigator, PI/Co-PI, on three Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program grants, focused on advanced materials, sustainable energy, and sustainable environments, respectively. Thomas is also the USF GEM Consortium Representative and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Minority Ph.D. Mentor.

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Voices of Impact from the Public (VIP): An Ethical PerspectiveAdvancements in the area of nano materials technology and its applications to health, space, andalternative energy, have spurred the debate on related ethical considerations for society and theenvironment. One goal of the REU site is to expose students to some of the ethical aspectssurrounding their research and the overall nano materials research efforts. As part of the SEAMREU site, students are engaged in breakfast journal club discussions, readings, industry fieldtrips, and a seminar based on the ethical and societal impacts of their research. In additionstudents have sessions with invited speakers and experts in the area of engineering and researchethics. The overall impact of the students’ ethical discoveries and acknowledgements have beencaptured in this article entitled “Voices of Impact from the Public (VIP Report): An EthicalPerspective”. In the VIP Report, we discuss the results of students’ interviews with peers,friends, and family, on how aspects of their research will affect the general public and theenvironment. The summarized results reveal the level of understanding the general public hasabout current research in the area of advanced material applications to sustainable energyalternatives such as solar technology, biomass fuels, fuel cell development, supercapacitors forenergy storage, and more.

Thomas, S. W. (2012, June), Voices of Impact from the Public (VIP): An Ethical Perspective Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22223

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