Professor Motwani was best known for helping to guide Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, when the two were graduate students at Stanford in the mid-1990s. Professor Motwani, an expert in algorithms and the mathematical theory underlying computer science, helped Mr. Brin and Mr. Page explore the possibilities emerging from the analysis of the Web as a graph of interconnected pages.
Professor Motwani’s work spanned various areas of computer science, including databases, data mining, Web search and information retrieval. He is recognized academically for his research on “randomized algorithms,” which are used as a kind of shortcut to solve problems that are so complex and involve so much data — for example, all the pages on the Web — that computing an exact answer would be impractical or impossible.
Professor Motwani helped explain when a randomized algorithm, which performs only a subset of the computations needed to obtain an exact answer, is sufficiently accurate.