Late. Prof. Rajeev Motwani (BT/CSE/1983)

Late Prof. Rajeev Motwani was one of the most illustrious alumni of our institute. An expert in algorithms and the mathematical theory underlying computer science, Prof. Motwani served as a Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University and mentored a large number of young entrepreneurs at the University including the founders of Google.

In 2006, he was conferred with the Distinguished Alumnus Award by IIT Kanpur for leaving an indelible mark on the field of theoretical computer science.


Prof. Rajeev Motwani born in Jammu in 1962, Prof. Motwani grew up in New Delhi and studied at St. Columba’s school. As a child, inspired by luminaries like Gauss, he wanted to become a mathematician. He completed his B.Tech. in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in 1983 and received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988 under the supervision of Richard M. Karp. Soon after UC Berkeley, he joined Stanford.

At Stanford, he founded the Mining Data at Stanford (MIDAS) project, an umbrella organization for several groups looking into new and innovative data management concepts. His research areas included databases, data mining, Web search and information retrieval. He was one of the originators of the Locality-sensitive hashing algorithm. He also authored two widely used theoretical computer science textbooks - Randomized Algorithms with Prabhakar Raghavan and Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation with John Hopcroft and Jeffrey Ullman. He served on the editorial boards of SIAM Journal on Computing, Journal of Computer and System Sciences, ACM Transactions on Knowledge Discovery from Data, and IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering. In 2001, he was awarded with the Gödel Prize for his work on the PCP theorem and its applications to hardness of approximation.

Besides his research interests, Prof. Motwani played an active role in the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES). He was an avid angel investor and helped fund a number of startups to emerge from Stanford. He sat on the boards of several companies including Google, Kaboodle, Adchemy, Baynote, Vuclip, Tapulous and Stanford Student Enterprises. Together with Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Terry Winograd, he co-authored an influential early paper on the PageRankalgorithm and another seminal search paper What Can You Do With A Web In Your Pocket. He advised and taught many of Google’s developers and researchers, including its first employee, Craig Silverstein.

On 5 June 2009, Prof. Motwani was found dead at the bottom of his backyard swimming pool. His sudden demise was mourned by some of Silicon Valley’s best known minds and technology luminaries. Mr. Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, wrote about him, “Today, whenever you use a piece of technology, there is a good chance a little bit of Rajeev Motwani is behind it.”

In 2011, Prof. Motwani’s family donated US$1.5 million to the Institute which has been used to construct a six-storied building named after him in his fond memory Rajeev Motwani Building.

Achievements and Honors


  • Gödel Prize, 2001.

  • Okawa Foundation Research Award.

  • Arthur Sloan Research Fellowship.

  • National Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation.

  • Distinguished Alumnus Award from IIT Kanpur, 2006.

  • Bergmann Memorial Award from the US-Israel Bi-National Science Foundation.

  • IBM Faculty Award.



IIT Kanpur



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