Nikhil Wani

I’m Nikhil, a Machine Learning Engineer and Researcher. I’m broadly interested in Generative AI and its applications in Natural Language Processing (NLP). My current research areas include: LLM explainability, evaluation, and security.

In early August 2022, I joined VMware’s Propel Rotational Program as a Machine Learning Engineer II at their Palo Alto, CA headquarters in the Stanford Research Park to work on Enterpise NLP, LLM problems on private data. My team works on inventing cutting edge transformer based models that generate representation of the textual HTTP headers in absence of natural language syntax and semantics, a first of its kind!

Previously, I was a CS graduate student in the honors program at the University of Southern California in sunny Los Angeles. My masters was supported by the USC Dean’s scholarship. I wanted machines to not just learn, but also understand complex ideas the way we do, especially with natural languages. My master’s thesis proposed new methods in lexical complexity-driven representation learning. My work achieves state-of-the-art on two NLP-ML shared tasks (NAACL 2018): 1. Complex phrase detection, 2. Complex word detection and probes 3. Grammatical sentence correctness detection, encapsulated for the eventual goal of Lexical Simplification of English text. I was also a TA (course producer) for USC’s popular course CSCI 570: Analysis of Algorithms under Prof. Victor Adamchik.

Before joining USC, I spent about two wonderful years (2017-19) as a Machine Learning Research Engineer in the Department of Computer Science at IIT Bombay, India. I was advised by Dr. Pushpak Bhattachary at the Center for Language Technology lab. My research broadly focused on Machine Learning and Natural Language Understanding (sequence and token classification tasks).

During the summer of 2017, I worked on Probabilistic Models for Intelligent Text Input Processing as a Machine Learning research intern in the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) group at the IDC School of Design (IDC Dept), IIT Bombay, India, where I was advised by Dr. Anirudha Joshi.

In spring 2017, I worked on Multi-Scale, Multi-Channel 3D Convolutional Neural Network models during my 6 months Machine Learning Co-op/internship at Nvidia, where I was lucky to be jointly advised by Dr. CP Mammen and Dr. Kalpathy Crammer (MGH, Harvard Medical School).

I graduated in 2017 from University of Pune (VIT, Pune) with distinction in Bachelor’s of Computer Science. During my undergrad, I received the ACM SIGCHI scholarship, which fueled me to pursue and contribute to Human-Computer Interaction/ User Experience research.

I like the outdoors. In my spare time, I’m either hitting sixes on the cricket pitch or hobnobbing with interesting folks at social events. If there is anything I can help you with, please feel free to reach out to me at, or message me on LinkedIn!

The Research page lists my latest research projects and interests.


• Apr 2024:I will serve as a reviewer for ACM MobileHCI 2024, IDC 2024, and UIST 2024.
• Mar 2024:I will serve as a reviewer for ACM CUI (Conversational UI) 2024, and EICS 2024
• Feb 2024: I will serve as a reviewer for CHI 2024 - Late Breaking Work and ACM IMX 2024
• Apr 2023: Attended 2023 Annual Affiliates Meeting at Stanford University (Generative AI and Foundation Models Workshop)
• Jul 2023: Attended RADIO 2023 - VMware's flagship R&D conference
• Nov 2022: I was a contestant on TV show - The Price is Right! :) [blogpost forthcoming]
• Sep 2022: I joined VMware as a Machine Learning Engineer II to work on Enterprise NLP-ML problems; rellocated to Palo Alto, CA.
• Aug 2022: I defended my master's thesis on lexical complexity driven representation learning at USC!
• May 2022: Thrilled to receive M.S. CS Honors by the USC CS Department.
• Jan 2021: Received Teaching Assistant (TA) position for academic year 2022-2023 at USC (see teaching section for summary).
• May 2020: Received Course Producer position for CSCI 570: Analysis of Algorithms (Fall 2020, Summer 2020) at USC
• Jan 2020: Started Masters in CS at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.
• May 2019: Attended & presented work on text input processing at ACM SIGCHI Summer School 2019 at IIT Bombay
• Sept 2018: One paper to appear at NLP-BEA@NAACL 2018 on effectiveness of ensebling for lexical complexity prediction.
• May 2017: Presented paper on Probabilistic Models for Intelligent Text Input Processing at INTERACT 2017.