He is a recipient of the Paul F. Forman Engineering Excellence Award and several other distinctions.
- Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, 1988, Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science 
- BA, Yeshiva University 
In early 2016, he became a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is also an International Fellow of the U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering, as well as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; IEEE; National Academy of Inventors; the Optical Society (OSA); and SPIE. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the IEEE Eric Sumner Award, and a Presidential Faculty Fellows Award from the White House."
Willner was President of the OSA and editor in chief of several of their publications.
- Kaminov, I. P.; Li, T.; Willner, A. E. (2008). Optical Fiber Telecommunications: Systems and Networks. New York: Academic Press.
- Wang, J.; Yang, J-Y.; Fazal, I. M.; Ahmed, N.; Yan, Y.; Huang, H.; Ren, Y.; Yue, Y.; Dolinar, S.; Tur, M.; Willner, A. E (2012). "Terabit free-space data transmission employing orbital angular momentum multiplexing". Nature Photonics. 6: 488–496. doi:10.1038/nphoton.2012.138.
- "Alan E. Willner". USC Viterbi. USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
- Ballon, Marc (February 16, 2016). "Alan Willner Elected to National Academy of Engineering". USC Viterbi. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
- "President – Alan Willner". OSA.org. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
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