Princeton University

School of Engineering & Applied Science

Paul Cuff

Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering

Room: B316 Engineering Quadrangle
Phone: 609-258-7946
Webpage: Cuff Lab: Information-Theoretic Security

Curriculum Vitae


  • Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, 2009
  • B.S. Electrical Engineering, Brigham Young University, 2004

My research in information theory is largely focused on the fundamental limits of secure communication. We address both the source coding and the channel coding side of this study.  My group has been able to successfully develop a theory of optimal encoding of an informaiton signal when the level of security is measured by the amount of distortion that an eavesdropper must experience because they do not have the secret key.  The mathematical tools needed to characterize the limits of compression and key usage in these settings are related to rate-distortion theory and require additional novel concepts as well.
My primary research directions are information-theoretic security and machine learning.  Secondary interests include: - voting theory - investment (portfolio) theory - communication for control - ranking algorithms - audio processing.
After finishing a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at Brigham Young University, I spent 2004 to 2009 getting a master's degree and Ph.D. from Stanford University. My first challenge as a graduate student was to narrow my broad interests. Curiosity ultimately led me to focus on information theory with Thomas Cover, my dissertation advisor. The elegance of the mathematics and brilliance of the advisor were too much to resist.
I received several departmental honors as a graduate student for my performance on the qualifying exam and my efforts as a teaching assistant. A very motivating honor was awarded in 2008 at the IEEE International Symposium on Information Theory, where I received a student paper award for my solo-authored unorthodox work on communication requirements for generating correlated random variables. That work has led to various fruitful and unexpected avenues of research (for myself and others), and elements of those ideas can be found in many of our current results.
Over the years I've interacted with industry in both the technology and the financial sectors, spending summers at Google, Microsoft Research, and elsewhere, and giving talks at a number of hedge funds. In 2005 I co-founded a tech startup called Adaptive Hearing Solutions with Bernard Widrow centered around signal processing technology. This venture began by our winning of the Stanford business plan competition. The company wasn't profitability in its short lifetime (2 years), but the experience certainly was. At that same time in the spring of 2005, one of my friends joined Facebook (#13 employee), and another friend started SoundHound. So I did not win the entrepreneuring clairvoyance prize.
I joined the faculty at Princeton University in September of 2009. In 2014, I received the NSF Career Award and graduated my first batch of Ph.D. students. In 2015, I received the AFOSR Young Investigator Program Award.

Honors and Awards

  • Princeton Engineering Commendation List for Outstanding Teaching (2016)
  • AFOSR Young Investigator Program Award (2015)
  • NSF Career Award (2014)
  • ICPADS HotPOST Workshop Best Paper Award (2011)
  • ISIT Best Student Paper Award (2008)
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (2005-2008)
  • Numerical Technologies Fellowship (2005)
  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant (Stanford IEEE-WIE) (2005)
  • Stanford BASES Entrepreneurial Challenge: 1st Place (2005)

Selected Publications

  1. C. Schieler, P. Cuff, “Rate-Distortion Theory for Secrecy Systems,” IEEE Trans. on Information Theory, 60(12):7584-605, December, 2014.

  2. P. Cuff, “Distributed Channel Synthesis,” IEEE Trans. on Information Theory, 59(11):7071-96, November, 2013.

  3. P. Cuff, L. Yu, “Differential Privacy as a Mutual Information Constraint,” ACM Conf. on Computer and Communication Security (CCS), Vienna, Austria, October, 2016.

  4. C. Schieler, P. Cuff, “The Henchman Problem: Measuring Secrecy by the Minimum Distortion in a List,” IEEE Trans. on InformationTheory, 62(6):3436-50, June, 2016.

  5. E. Song, P. Cuff, V. Poor, “The Likelihood Encoder for Lossy Compression,” IEEE Trans. on Information Theory, 62(4):1836-49, April, 2016.

  6. P. Cuff, H. Permuter, T. Cover, “Coordination Capacity,” IEEE Trans. on Information Theory, 56(9):4181-4206, September, 2010.

  7. H. Permuter, P. Cuff, B. Van Roy, T. Weissman, “Capacity of the Trapdoor Channel with Feedback,” IEEE Trans. on Information Theory, 54(7):3150-65, July, 2008.