Engineering Professor Receives Grant for Immune System-Inspired Machine Learning Research


Ren Wang

Illinois Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Ren Wang has been awarded the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) award. The two-year grant will support his exploration of immune system-inspired machine learning foundations for enhancing robustness.

Wang’s project, titled “Immune-Inspired Learning Foundations of Neural Network General Robustness,” aims to infuse key immune system principles into neural networks to improve their overall functionality, particularly their capability to defend against multifaceted perturbations.

This project not only enriches the theory and practice of trustworthy machine learning, but also has broad impacts on many other practical areas in engineering and science where the robustness of machine learning models is critical.

Wang received his Ph.D. from the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2022. He then served as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan.

At Rensselaer, Wang’s Ph.D. work was recognized with the Founders Award of Excellence and the IBM-RPI AI Horizons Scholarship. He was also a research intern at IBM Research artificial intelligence. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Tsinghua University, where he received multiple awards and scholarships recognizing his academic performance.

Wang joined Illinois Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in fall 2022. His research interests include trustworthy machine learning; high-dimensional data analysis; bio-inspired machine learning; and smart grids. He is currently developing new machine learning courses, particularly for electrical and computer engineering students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Wang built the Trustworthy and Intelligent Machine Learning Research Lab, which is an innovative research laboratory dedicated to building next-generation intelligent machine learning systems with trustworthiness at the center. The lab’s research activities are centered around two key themes: trustworthy machine learning and intelligent machine learning for engineering.

“I am grateful for the welcome and support that I have received from the ECE department, Armour College of Engineering, and the Illinois Tech community,” says Wang. “From the first day I joined this esteemed department, I have been impressed by the dedication, expertise, and collegiality of everyone here. Because of their willingness to share their knowledge and resources, provide guidance and mentorship, and foster an environment of collaboration and innovation, I can achieve this milestone.”

Photo: Assistant Professor Ren Wang