What started as a path to a career in pharmaceuticals led University of Mississippi alumnus Sylvester Lee to be named one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30.” The innovative young entrepreneur—who goes by Sly—evolved from a promising student to the founder of a VR tech start-up. And it all began at Ole Miss.
A Deep Dive into Learning
Lee started his undergraduate studies in the School of Pharmacy and went on to get his master’s in environmental toxicology. Lee says his professors inspired the critical thinking that supported his unique research. He credits Ole Miss’s career development program with helping him develop the confidence to bring his big ideas to life.
During his studies, Lee took a research trip to the Bahamas in search of pharmaceutical compounds. “My job was to scuba dive, study, and use cutting-edge technologies to gain insights and knowledge into one of the least-understood ecosystems in the world,” he said. “That experience made a deep impression upon me and set me on my future career path.”
From Virtual to Reality
Following his graduate studies at Ole Miss, the would-be young entrepreneur was chosen for Singularity University’s graduate studies program, sponsored by Google at NASA Ames Research Center in California.
There, he joined talented scientists, technologists, and designers to tackle global challenges. While at Singularity, he started exploring ecosystems of a different kind and co-founded his virtual reality start-up, Emerge. The Los Angeles-based company’s device —a combination of hardware and software in one—allows users to perceive the sensory experience of augmented reality without wearables.
“The Forbes honor came as a huge surprise to me,” Lee, Ole Miss, M.S. 2012
Emerge’s first product was a tabletop device that transmits touch from a distance. “We believe in a future where distance and time don’t stand in the way of feeling present,” he says. This “teleport”-inspired technology is at the intersection of neuroscience and immersive and affective computing, combining AR, MR, VR, and holograms.
“I’m passionate about creating positive global impact through design and exponential technologies,” says Lee. Emerge is “a teleportation company with a vision to connect people's emotions and feelings, on the path to ultimately ‘teleporting’ our presence.”
The innovative approach to augmented experiences landed Lee on Forbes “30 Under 30” list in 2018.
Science in Motion
His passion for innovation and marine science led Lee to co-found The Hydrous, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by the Smithsonian and Google. Lee’s work — featured in WIRED Magazine, TED, and Fast Company — is helping pioneer a high-resolution 3-D capture of coral reefs for scientific monitoring, data visualization, and public outreach.
Through his studies at Ole Miss and his focus on success, Lee has earned a reputation for innovation and entrepreneurialism. We can’t wait to see the ways he’ll change the world tomorrow.
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