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Prem Kumar receives the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service

13 April 2017

Prem Kumar
Prem Kumar

SPIE Fellow Prem Kumar, AT&T Professor of Information Technology, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern University, received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service 8 February.

The Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service is the second highest award presented by the Secretary of Defense to non-career Federal employees, private citizens, and foreign nationals. Awardees receive a silver medal, a miniature medal, a rosette, and a citation signed by the Secretary of Defense in recognition of significant contributions, assistance, or support to Department of Defense functions.

Kumar served as Program Manager for the Defense Science Office, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics from February 2013 to February 2017. His citation noted his "pioneering contributions to quantum and optical sciences, enabling new capabilities that directly benefitted the Department of Defense and other areas of the United States Government."

Kumar is both a professor of electrical engineering and computers science at Northwestern University as well as a professor of physics and astronomy. His research is conducted under the umbrella of the Center for Photonic Communication and Computing, focusing on quantum communications and computing with photons. Kumar frequently presents on his research at SPIE events. This week, he delivered a keynote presentation on the Fundamental limits for single photon detection at SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing.

In addition to presenting at SPIE events, Kumar has served as session chair and on program committees. He worked with other SPIE Members as part of the National Academies' committee on Harnessing Light: Capitalizing on Optical Science Trends and Challenges for Future Research to update the 1998 study by the same name. The resulting Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation (2013) provides a useful overview for policymakers and decision-makers on the current state of optics and photonics research and applications. For his many contributions to SPIE and the greater photonics community, Kumar was made a Fellow of the Society in 2010.

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