College of IST recognizes outstanding graduate students with annual awards

February 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Four graduate students in the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology were recently recognized by the college for their contributions to educational and research initiatives. Their achievements were celebrated during a reception Feb. 7 at the Nittany Lion Inn.

“The work and dedication that these students demonstrate help to advance the multidisciplinary environment that encompasses the College of IST,” said Mary Beth Rosson, director of graduate programs. “We are honored to recognize them for their outstanding accomplishments.”

Wenbo Guo and Rob Grace were presented with the College of IST Ph.D. Award for Research Excellence. The award is given to doctoral students who have completed outstanding research, scholarship and/or creativity during their careers. Awardees are selected by the originality and significance of their research, internal and external recognition, and impact on the field.

Guo was recognized for his recent accomplishments in computer security and machine learning. He earned the outstanding paper award at the 2018 Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Computer and Communications Security, one of the most competitive and prestigious conferences in the field of computer security. His team developed a technique, named LEMNA, which could help security analysts and machine learning developers to establish trust in deep learning models by correctly identifying, explaining and correcting errors that the models make.

He also published two papers in top machine learning conferences and served as the team leader in the DEF CON/GeekPwn CAAD grand challenge competition in Las Vegas, where they went to the final.

“Only six teams were selected for that final, including Yale, Harvard and companies like Google and Microsoft,” said Guo’s nominator.

Grace has authored 11 papers in peer-reviewed proceedings, won an award for Most Interesting Preliminary Results paper at the 2016 iConference, was nominated for best paper at the annual conference for Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM), and was part of a team of researchers who one Best Research Paper at the 2018 ISCRAM.

“[Rob is] an incredibly promising junior faculty member who can contribute across interdisciplinary fields of information science, human-centered design and crisis management,” his nominator wrote.

Also at the reception, the College of IST Award for Excellence in Teaching Support was presented to William Aurite and Dongkuan Xu. This award is given to graduate students who served as teaching assistants or instructional assistants and who exhibited exemplary commitment to student learning, reflective teaching practices, leadership, and a commitment to professional growth as a teacher.

“He earned my respect with what he has done as a teaching assistant,” Xu’s nominator said. “In order to be a TA, one has to be willing to guide and support students. He helped me prepare for my first midterm, and with his help, I received an A.”

Aurite also was selected due to his dedication as a teaching assistant, helping with duties such as syllabus preparation, scoring student assignments and lecturing.

“His work ethic and professional demeanor consistently sets Bill apart from others,” said his nominator. “It indeed has been a pleasure to have worked closely with him.”

Learn more about the College of IST’s graduate degree programs at

Last Updated February 19, 2019