John Wen

Head, Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering


John T. Wen is a Professor and the Head of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  He has a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering and Industrial and Systems Engineering.  He was the Head of Industrial and Systems Engineering from 2013-2018, Director of the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS) from 2005-2013, and the Interim Director of the NSF Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) in 2009. 

As the Director of the CATS, a New York State designated Center for Advanced Technology, he successfully led the ten-year re-designation in 2009 . The CATS helped industry partners generate over $340M of economic impact in the state and over 900 new and retained jobs.  As the Interim Director of the Smart Lighting ERC from Jun-Dec 2009, he successfully led the first ERC annual review and recruited a permanent director to the center.   He was the Rensselaer representative on the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) 2.0 operating committee from 2013-2014. He led the Rensselaer participation in the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, a Manufacturing USA Institute awarded by the Department of Defense in 2017.  He serves on the ARM Technical Advisory Council and co-leads with FuzeHub the ARM Mid-Atlantic Regional Robotics Innovation Collaborative (RRIC).  

He is the co-inventor of the Adaptive Scanning Optical Microscope (ASOM), which was licensed to Thorlabs in 2007.  The commercialized version of ASOM won the 2007 Laser Focus World Innovation Award in the Conference in Lasers and Electro Optics (CLEO).  He was awarded the 2013 IEEE Control Systems Society Transition to Practice Award.  He served as an Oversea Assessor for the Chinese Academy of Sciences from 2004-2009, and a Senior Visiting Scientist of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) in 1997.  He has been an IEEE Fellow since 2001.

John Wen joined Rensselaer faculty in 1988.  He was a member of technical staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory developing modeling and control algorithms for large space structures and space robots from 1985-1988.  From 1981-1982, he was a system engineer at Fisher Controls developing plant-wide coordination control system for pulp and paper plants. 

He received B.Eng. from McGill University in 1979, M.S. from University of Illinois in 1981, and Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1985, all in Electrical Engineering.

John Wen's research interest lies in the modeling and control of dynamical systems with applications to precision motion, robot manipulation, thermal management, lighting systems and materials processing.

Education & Training

Ph.D. Computer and Systems Engineering (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1985), M.S. Electrical Engineering (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981), B.Eng. Electrical Engineering (McGill University, 1979)

Other affililations: Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering


John Wen’s research is in the area of control theory and applications, broadly applied to connected human and physical systems such as assistive robotics, human-robot collaboration, and building comfort system control.  John is particularly interested in hard problems that lie at the intersection of multiple disciplines.  These problems are frequently characterized by complex, nonlinear, and imprecise models and multiple design objectives. John has drawn extensively on the passivity theory – an intuitive and powerful control design tool due to its natural connection to the Lyapunov method and its applicability to broad classes of dynamical systems. For performance and optimality, other system-theoretic tools are applied as needed, e.g., model identification, model reduction, multi-objective optimization, optimal control, image and signal processing.   The numerous control applications that John has addressed broadly fit under motion, heat, and light, and their interactions. Motion research involves precision motion control (high speed scanning and motion planning in electronic manufacturing) and robotics (multi-robot cooperation, assistive robot, robotic satellite servicing, industrial robots in manufacturing).  The focus for heat related research has been on thermo-fluid systems (two-phase heat transfer, vapor compression cycle, critical heat flux, thermal and flow instabilities) and building thermal management (temperature and humidity with human feedback and energy minimization). For light, the focus is in light-based circadian rhythm and sleep control (e.g., for shift workers, international and space travels, military personnel) and light field control using tunable light sources. In the intersection of motion and heat, John has studied thermal-compensation in precision motion systems, and more recently, thermo-mechanical processing of metal alloys (e.g., Ti6Al4V), combining modeling (Monte Carlo, Phase Field), imaging (SEM), and feedforward/feedback control. In the intersection of motion and light, his work has involved adaptive optics (in large field microscopy), beam steering (for laser electronic manufacturing), and blur-based estimation. In the intersection of heat and light, his interest is in the distributed building control, including both thermal and visual environments. The overarching theme that encompass all these applications is smart environment, including living environment, commercial environment, and manufacturing environment.

Primary Research Focus
Robotics, Control Systems, Mechatronics
Other Focus Areas

Circadian Rhythm, Thermal Management, Material Processing


Awards & Honors
  • William H. Wiley Distinguished Faculty Award, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, May, 2020
  • 2020 International Journal of Intelligent Robotics and Applications Best Paper Award for the article “Human-directed coordinated control of an assistive mobile manipulator,” which was published in the International Journal of Intelligent Robotics and Applications (co-author: Lu Lu, former post-doc, now at NJIT), October 2020
  • IEEE Transaction on Automation Science and Engineering Best Paper Award, 2015
  • IEEE Control Systems Society Transition to Practice Award, 2013
  • Rensselaer School of Engineering Outstanding Team Award, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2010
  • Innovation in Optomechatronic Research Award, SPIE Symposium on Optomecharonic Technologies, San Diego, 2008.
  • Rensselaer School of Engineering Outstanding Research Award, 2007.
  • Best Conference Paper Award, IEEE Conf. on Automation Science and Engineering, Shanghai, 2006
  • Oversea Assessor, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2004-2009
  • Fellow of IEEE, 2001
  • Senior Visiting Scientist, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), 1997
  • ASEE/NASA Summer Faculty Fellow at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, summer 1993
  • National Science Foundation Research Initiation Award, 1989


For the complete list of publications, please visit

The following is a selection of recent publications in Scopus. John Wen has 320 indexed publications in the subjects of Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics.

Qi Jin, John T. Wen, Shankar Narayan
International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer
, 194
, 2022
Jiawei Yin, Agung Julius, John T. Wen, Zhen Wang, Chuanlin He, Lei Kou
, 10
, 2022
Jiawei Yin, A. Agung Julius, John T. Wen, John P. Hanifin, Benjamin Warfield, George C. Brainard
Biomedical Signal Processing and Control
, 66
, 2021
Yuan Chih Peng, Shuyang Chen, Devavrat Jivani, John Wason, William Lawler, Glenn Saunders, Richard J. Radke, Jeff Trinkle, Shridhar Nath, John T. Wen
Applied Sciences (Switzerland)
, 11
, 2021
David S. Carabis, Kimberly I. Oakes, John T. Wen
Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
, 44
, 2021
, pp.923-937
Jiawei Yin, A. Agung Julius, John T. Wen
, 16
, 2021
Shuyang Chen, Zhigang Wang, Abhijit Chakraborty, Michael Klecka, Glenn Saunders, John Wen
IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
, 5
, 2020
, pp.5581-5588
Yuan Chih Peng, Devavrat Jivani, Richard J. Radke, John Wen
IEEE International Conference on Automation Science and Engineering
, 2020-August
, 2020
, pp.1608-1613
Shuyang Chen, John T. Wen
Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation
, 2020
, pp.2358-2364

View All Scopus Publications

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