Nan Jiang selected as a 2024 Sloan Research Fellow

3/14/2024 Jenny Applequist

Written by Jenny Applequist

Nan Jiang
Nan Jiang

Professor Nan Jiang of the Department of Computer Science at The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has received a prestigious early-career award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: a 2024 Sloan Research Fellowship.

The Fellowships are bestowed on early-career scholars judged to be the most promising scientific researchers working today. Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada. They come with $75,000 that can be spent over two years to support the recipient’s research.

Nan Jiang is an expert on machine learning and builds theoretical foundations of reinforcement learning (RL). He focuses on setting function approximations that allow an RL agent to generalize from known states to unknown states for which exact calculations would be infeasible.

Jiang earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan in 2017. He spent a year as a postdoc in Microsoft Research’s Machine Learning Group before joining the Illinois faculty in 2018.

He previously won an NSF CAREER award in 2022 and an Adobe Data Science Research Award in 2021, among other awards. His teaching and mentorship have been recognized with a 2022 Engineering Council Outstanding Advisor Award, and he is often listed on the Illinois Teachers Ranked as Excellent.

“I am delighted that Nan Jiang’s impressive early-career accomplishments are being recognized with such a prestigious award,” said Rashid Bashir, Dean of the Grainger College of Engineering. “I speak for the whole Grainger College of Engineering community when I say how proud we are of his achievements. We look forward to watching him continue to grow as a leader of his field.”

Sloan Research Fellowships are esteemed because of their strong track record of predicting distinguished careers, such as those of physicist Richard Feynman and mathematician John Nash. To date, 57 Sloan Fellows have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes; 71 have won the National Medal of Science; and 17 have won the Fields Medal.

“Sloan Research Fellowships are extraordinarily competitive awards involving the nominations of the most inventive and impactful early-career scientists across the U.S. and Canada,” said Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We look forward to seeing how Fellows take leading roles in shaping the research agenda within their respective fields.”

See all 2024 Sloan Research Fellows on the Sloan Foundation’s website.

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This story was published March 14, 2024.