Co-founder, Databricks

Matei ZahariaMatei Zaharia is the winner of the 2014 Young Alumni Achievement Medal. Matei received his BMath with a double major in Computer Science (CS) and Combinatorics & Optimization (C&O) in 2007 from the University of Waterloo. He graduated with a GPA that is best described as 100 - epsilon. He then joined University of California (UC) Berkeley for graduate studies and graduated with his PhD degree in CS in 2013. He has taken the last year off to co-found Databricks and will join the faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in January.

“I had the privilege of working with Matei from 2004 to 2007 when he was an undergraduate here. Matei contacted me in his 1B term asking to work with me on some research problems. Most first-year students are ill-prepared to tackle leading-edge research papers. I was surprised to find that Matei not only completely understood the ten or so papers on peer-to-peer networks that I gave him, but also found, read, and digested several papers I had missed! I knew already that he was someone very special. He went on to work on a number of problems with me over the next seven terms, and we published five papers together; some of them in the most highly regarded venues in the field. When he graduated here, faculty members from both MIT and Berkeley begged me to send him their way. Berkeley won.” says Professor Srinivasan Keshav, from the School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo.

Matei is the co-founder of a red-hot startup: Databricks. Based on his thesis work on Spark, an open-source system for big data, it has made large-scale data manipulation and analysis accessible to nearly everyone. I am sure you will read more about Databricks in the business pages of the world’s newspapers in the years to come. It will suffice to remark that a recent symposium on Spark drew 1,200 attendees from hundreds of companies. This is two orders of magnitude more than readers of most PhD theses.

Matei has many awards to his credit. He won a fellowship from Google and the Sakrison Prize for a truly outstanding thesis from the Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS) department at UC Berkeley.

University of Waterloo

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