Illinois Tech Assistant Professor Ren Wang Receives Prestigious National Science Foundation Award

Two-year grant will assist with immune system-inspired neural network research, which aims to enhance robustness of machine learning models


Ren Wang

CHICAGO—March 24, 2023—Illinois Institute of Technology Assistant Professor Ren Wang has been honored with the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) award. The two-year grant will support Wang’s groundbreaking research project, which aims to enhance the robustness of machine learning models by infusing key principles of the immune system into neural networks.

Wang’s innovative project, titled “Immune-Inspired Learning Foundations of Neural Network General Robustness,” not only advances the theory and practice of trustworthy machine learning, but it also has far-reaching implications for various engineering and scientific fields where the robustness of machine learning models is crucial. By improving neural networks’ ability to defend against multifaceted perturbations, Wang’s research holds the potential to transform the landscape of machine learning.

Wang, who earned his Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, joined Illinois Tech’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in fall 2022. He is currently developing new machine learning courses for electrical and computer engineering students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. His research interests encompass trustworthy machine learning, high-dimensional data analysis, bio-inspired machine learning, and smart grids. 

“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.”

The prestigious CRII award underscores the significance of Wang’s research and the potential impact of his work in the rapidly evolving field of machine learning. With the support of the NSF and the Illinois Tech community, Wang is poised to make meaningful advancements in the development of robust and trustworthy machine learning models. 

Photo: Assistant Professor Ren Wang

Illinois Institute of Technology

Based in the global metropolis of Chicago, Illinois Tech was born to liberate the collective power of difference to advance technology and progress for all. It is the only tech-focused university in the city, and it stands at the crossroads of exploration and invention, advancing the future of Chicago and the world. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, computing, architecture, business, design, science and human sciences, and law. Illinois Tech students are guaranteed hands-on experiences, personalized mentorship, and job readiness through the university's one-of-a-kind Elevate program. Its graduates lead the state and much of the nation in economic prosperity. Its faculty and alumni built the Chicago skyline. And every day in the living lab of the city, Illinois Tech fuels breakthroughs that change lives. Visit

Armour College of Engineering

Armour College of Engineering has been educating world-class engineers since the university’s founding in 1890. As future engineers who will innovate in the twenty-first century, Armour students learn the principles of the profession and work in an interdisciplinary environment that emphasizes hands-on learning, teamwork, and leadership, all through the lens of our four engineering themes—water, health, energy, and security—that highlight issues vital today and in the future. Armour is home to five departments and nine ABET-accredited undergraduate majors, which provide a wide breadth of exciting programs from which to choose. Illinois Tech alumni have advanced to careers as presidents of companies and professors at major universities—and have become members of the National Academy of Engineering, the highest distinction in the field.

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