Featured Researcher - Phil Bohannon
Featured Researcher - Phil Bohannon | Yahoo! Research
Featured Researcher - Phil Bohannon
As a child, Principal Research Scientist Philip Bohannon thought it would be fun to fly jet planes one day.
childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, where his
dad started, then led, a new Department of Pastoral Care at the University of Alabama Hospital
At the time, they lived a mile from the local zoo.
"Thankfully, we could hear and not smell the animals," jokes Bohannon
A peacock, named "Henry" by the neighborhood, repeatedly escaped the zoo to take up alternate residence on his
early interests included reading science fiction and fantasy books, and playing with computers.
He attended Birmingham-Southern College where he earned a B.S. in computer science.
"If you can succeed in doing something that seems more like playing, then it's hard to go wrong," explains Bohannon
After graduating from Birmingham-Southern College, Bohannon took a job with a small transportation software company as a developer.
designed and implemented their time-critical dispatch system, among other systems that were database dependent.
It was during this time that he
realized how much he
was motivated by improving the productivity of developers.
"In computer science, you see how much development speed and application performance are impacted by how good or bad the database is," says Bohannon
His motivation drove him to pursue his master's and PhD at Rutgers University.
While looking for a subject for his PhD
discovered a main-memory database project at Bell Labs
, led by Rajeev Rastogi, current head of Yahoo! Labs Bangalore, and Avi Silberschatz.
The project set out to prove that database fault-tolerance features could be added to main-memory applications without destroying performance.
He became a member of the Bell Labs technical team when he completed his PhD, where he worked primarily on database technology.
After 10 years at Bell Labs
made the move to Yahoo! Research
Bohannon joined Yahoo! Research as a Principal Research Scientist in July 2006, when the group was relatively new.
manages a team in the Community Systems group and partners closely with several research engineers in Bangalore, as well as members of the research engineering team in Santa Clara.
is currently working on information extraction, but also conducts research on data management infrastructure for community systems, Internet-scale OLTP systems, data integration, data cleaning, XML indexing, XML publishing, main-memory databases, fault tolerance, indexing, and semi-structured data.
"We have the opportunity to really improve the experiences of Yahoo! users, as well as the experiences of people on the Internet," explains Bohannon when asked why he came to Yahoo!.
"The company's brand is strong, and starting a new research team is exciting."
Bohannon also enjoys working with the developers at Yahoo!.
"I get to talk to people close to the front lines," he
"It's a unique opportunity to see real needs and tools, and to bring algorithms to bear against those needs."
also believes that the Yahoo! Research
leadership has set the right tone in making an impact.
"It requires humility on our part," he
"People have an incredible amount of respect for the problems that engineers are facing, and management understands that here."
So what's next for Bohannon?
"The Nobel Prize - not for database research?"
says that the list of things he
aspires to do in life can take up multiple pages, as proven by a personality test he
took as an undergrad.
"My results took up two and a half pages as opposed to the next guy who had a total of four things," he
For now, he
is more than happy with his
current role at Yahoo!
"Research is most effective in a company that isn't afraid of taking big risks," says Bohannon