UF/IFAS Modern Day da Vinci: Nan-Yao Su

This May, the world marks the 500th anniversary of the death of scientist, artist, inventor and innovator, Leonardo da Vinci. In honor of this occasion, UF/IFAS has chosen four faculty members that each exemplify at least one of da Vinci’s four most well-known talents and contributions to society.

Nan-Yao Su
Distinguished Professor, Urban Entomology
Department of Entomology and Nematology
Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center

Nan-Yao Su is a world-renowned entomologist recognized for the global success of technology he invented, which was used to create the termite-baiting system known as Sentricon®. The product has been marketed in more than 30 countries since 1995, protecting more than 3 million homes. The system has also been used to protect historic buildings, such as the Statue of Liberty, White House and Independence Hall.

Thinking back to the invention of your Sentricon® termite colony elimination system, how did you go about solving the problem you faced?

The problem was how to reach and deliver insecticides to the 100,000 to 1,000,000 termites in a colony that may disperse in a 300-foot diameter circle in soil near an infested home. The only solution I could come up with was to let termites do the job. To accomplish this, I needed to understand the movement pattern of termites inside their nesting structure and discover a slow-acting and non-repellent insecticide for them to deliver.

What is your advice for aspiring inventors?

Dream big, set a goal and go for it…don’t pay attention to naysayers. There are many who will tell you it can’t be done. Smile and imagine how they may look like when you make it happen.

What role do you think inventions play in society?

Inventions bring sciences to practices that improve our quality of life.

What famous inventors inspire you?

Thomas Edison. I love his tenacity in pursuing his goal. I can identify with him when I get into the zone of endless trial and error. Just very satisfying in the pursuit.

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By: April Martin, 352-294-3302, april.martin@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS website at ifas.ufl.eduand follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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