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Prem Kumar is the SBC Professor of Information Technology in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Center for Photonic Communication and Computing in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University. He also holds an appointment as Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University.

He joined Northwestern in 1986 after spending five years at MIT as a research scientist. He received a Ph.D. in Physics from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1980. He is the author or co-author of over 300 publications, including 115 papers in peer-reviewed journals. His research focuses on the development of novel fiber-optic devices for ultrahigh-speed optical and quantum communication networks. His current research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Army Research Office (ARO), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America (OSA), a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics (IoP). He is also a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

On the academic side, his professional services have included: Panel Reviewer, National Science Foundation, Associate Editor, Optics Letters; Member, OSA Publications Council; Editorial Board Member, Journal of the European Optical Society B––Quantum and Semiclassical Optics; Principal Organizer, 4th International Conference on Quantum Communication, Measurement, and Computing, Northwestern University, 1998; Chair and Member of several program committees for national and international conferences sponsored by the OSA, APS, and the IEEE; Vice Chairman, LEOS/IEEE Chicago Chapter, 1990/91. He currently serves as the Representative of the OSA to the Section Committee of the AAAS Section on Physics.

On the business side, he is the founder of NuCrypt LLC, a startup company focusing on the commercialization of quantum encryption technology for securing the physical layer of fiber-optic networks. He is also an Advisory Board Member for Baird Venture Partners in Chicago, IL. During the 2000–03 period, he served as a Scientific Advisor to Santel Networks in Newark, CA.