ALD23: Dr Valeria de Paiva, Mathematician and Computer Scientist

Dr Valeria de Paiva

Dr Valeria Correa Vaz de Paiva is a Brazilian mathematician, logician, computer scientist and computational linguist who introduced the concept of dialectica spaces, a way of modelling the linear logic that is used in advanced programming languages. She has spent many years working in industry at major natural language processing (NLP) labs, ensuring that “language technologies are taken seriously by the AI scientists and engineers and conversely that the engineer’s concerns are heard by the linguists.”

De Paiva grew up in Rio de Janeiro and initially started university studying both journalism and law. After moving on to physics, she eventually realised that what she “liked in physics was the mathematics underlying it”.

She earnt her PhD in mathematics from the University of Cambridge in 1988. Her thesis defined the concept of dialectica spaces, a new way of constructing models of linear logic, a logical form that has been influential in fields including linguistics, programming languages and quantum physics.

Since 2020, De Paiva has been the principal research scientist at the Topos Institute in Berkeley, California, a mathematical and computer science research lab that aims to “advance the sciences of connection and integration by looking at the mathematical frameworks of computation”. She is also a council member of the the Division of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science And Technology with the title Ambassador of Logic, and a lecturer in introductory logic and specifications at Santa Clara University.

Previously, De Paiva worked at top industry NLP labs in the US, including at Samsung Research America, Nuance, Deem, Cuil and Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). She was also a professor of theoretical computer science at the University of Birmingham in the UK and lectured at Stanford University.

De Paiva’s mathematics research involves work on logical approaches to computation, especially applying category theory (the study of mathematical structure and abstraction) to the logics of language. Among many other strands of logic, she has also worked on knowledge representation – how knowledge can be expressed in a computer-readable manner – and natural language semantics, or the study of grammatical meaning in human language. Her goal is to “build logics that reflect the way language is used”.

Encouraging more women into STEM fields, particularly logic, is a key priority for de Paiva. She plays a key role in Women In Logic (WIL), an organisation working to help foster gender parity in the heavily male-dominated field. De Paiva organised the first WIL workshop in Iceland in 2017 and maintains the organisation’s online presence. She also supports the ACM-W Scholarship programme, which enables women undergraduate and graduate students in computer science and related fields to attend research conferences. Her blog, Logic ForAll, aims to make the subject more accessible.

Her goal, she has said, is to build logics that reflect the way language is used and dealt with, “and whose proofs provide traces that make it understandable by people”.

Twitter: @valeriadepaiva

Further Reading

Written by Moya Crockett, with thanks to Stylist for their support.

Posted in Ada Lovelace Day 2023.