Research Scientist Nilesh Dalvi couldn’t get enough of puzzles as a child. “My father is a connoisseur of puzzles and brainteasers,” he said, describing how he was deeply influenced. “I couldn’t wait to go to the stores to find the newest puzzles and games.”
Dalvi grew up in a small town in Eastern India called Rourkela. His father, a mechanical engineer, moved the family to various parts of India because of his job. Most of Dalvi’s childhood was spent in Eastern and Central India.
Because of Dalvi’s love of solving puzzles, he was interested in pursuing mathematics in school. He participated in the regional and eventually the Indian National Mathematics Olympiad, after which he progressed to the International Mathematics Olympiad in Argentina in 1997 to represent India.
Although his enthusiasm for math was strong, when it came time to choose a course of study for his undergraduate degree, he knew he wanted to stay connected to the real world. He decided to focus on computer science as his undergraduate course at IIT Bombay, concurrently studying math through summer and correspondence programs. He was able to achieve his bachelor’s degree in computer science, as well as earn an equivalent to a master’s in mathematics.
After graduating from IIT Bombay in 2001, Dalvi attended the University of Washington in Seattle to pursue his master’s degree and PhD in computer science. His research focus was data management – primarily new models for managing uncertain data. When it came to deciding what to do for his career, Dalvi was conflicted between staying in academia and entering the corporate world.
“I had one academic offer,” said Dalvi. “But I thought I’d be happier if I could impact the real world, which is something that’s hard to do inside a university.” He had heard about Yahoo Labs and was attracted by the impressive group of people working there. He was also interested in working on the Web. “As a technology, it’s a really new field,” said Dalvi. Because of how new the Web was, Dalvi felt it was where he could make a significant difference. “Yahoo is perfectly positioned to make a huge impact on the Web,” he added. In August 2007, Dalvi became an official Yahoo.
Dalvi is currently working on information extraction from the Web. “Web search is pretty primitive right now,” he said. “Information extraction can lead to the next generation of search engines by better understanding user queries.” He feels the work is fulfilling and cites the people and the ability of make an impact as the two strongest forces for his passion as a Yahoo.
“The ability for researchers to interface with product groups is something very unique to Yahoo,” said Dalvi. “I plan on staying for a while.”