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March, 2011

Microsoft Research Connections Blog

The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

March, 2011

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Universities Partner with Scholarships for Aspirations Award Winners

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    There is a significant dearth of women working in—or even entering—the computer science field. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), only 18 percent of computer science degrees in 2008 were awarded to women. That was a dramatic drop from 37 percent in 1985. With those totals, it's not surprising that only 16 percent of Fortune 500 technology companies have female executives. Of greater concern is the small number of women who are applying for technology jobs, even during the economic downturn when jobs are scarce. NCWIT is working to reverse that trend.

    Winners at the event held at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge, MA

    Winners at the event held at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge, MA

    We are proud to be the primary financial supporter of the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which honors young women at the high-school level for their computer-related achievements and interests. NCWIT offers both national and local "affiliate" competitions to generate support and visibility for women's participation in communities nationwide.

    National Award winners receive a US$500 cash prize; a laptop computer provided by Bank of America; a trip to attend the Bank of America Technology Showcase and Awards Ceremony in Charlotte, North Carolina; and an engraved award for both the student and the student's school. Affiliate Award winners receive an engraved award for their home and school, plus additional prizes from local sponsors.

    I'm pleased to announce that the academic community stepped up this year to offer scholarships to this year's NCWIT winners as well. There will be 19 Affiliate Award programs serving 20 states and U.S. territories in the 2010/2011 round. Schools expected to connect with our winners include:

    The NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is a promising avenue for reaching out to and encouraging young women with a budding interest in computer science. By nurturing this interest early, we are increasing the likelihood that these young women will pursue computer science degrees and one day join us as the next generation of world-class computer scientists.

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    —Jane Prey, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections division of Microsoft Research

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Free MBF Workshop at RENCI in North Carolina

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    Microsoft Biology FoundationWe recently posted a preview of the Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF) for development evaluation purposes. Now, we're following up with a special, free, two-day MBF workshop from April 19 to 20, 2011, at the Renaissance Computing Institute in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, hosted by the Microsoft Biology Initiative. The workshop includes a quick introduction to Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, the Microsoft .NET Framework, C#, and the MBF Object Model. Plus, our hands-on lab will give you the opportunity to write a sample application that employs the file parsers, algorithms, and web connectors in MBF. For complete details about the event, or to register, please see the MBF Workshop website.

    We will also cover some MBF training modules throughout the day, including:

    • Module 1: Introduction to Visual Studio 2010 and C#. This comprehensive introduction to the Microsoft Visual Studio programming environment and Microsoft .NET will teach you how to create a project, get started with C#, and perform runtime debugging. Also, you will get hands-on lab experience by building applications in Visual Studio 2010.
    • Module 2: Introduction to the Microsoft Biology Foundation. This overview will introduce you to MBF basics through discussions of its scenarios and architectures and includes a starter project. The starter project is a hands-on lab that will help you get the experience you need to work with sequences, parsers, formatters, and the transcription algorithm that is supplied in MBF.
    • Module 3: Working with Sequences. In this module, you'll learn more about the Sequence data type in MBF, including how to load sequences into memory and save them, the different sequence types that are available, how to use sequence metadata, and how data virtualization support enables support for large data sets in a hands-on lab setting.
    • Module 4: Parsers and Formatters. In Parsers and Formatters, you'll explore MBF's built-in sequence parsers, formatters, alphabets, and encoders. This module will also introduce the method of expanding MBF with custom alphabets, parsers, and formatters. The hands-on lab will walk you through the steps that are required to build a simple custom parser and formatter for a fabricated biology data format.
    • Module 5: Algorithms. In this module, you will examine the algorithms that are defined in MBF for sequence alignment, multi-sequence alignment, sequence fragment assembly, transcription, translation, and pattern matching against sequences. You'll also learn how to create custom algorithms. The hands-on lab will walk you through the steps that are required to build an application to run algorithms against sequences loaded with MBF and will teach you how to perform sequence alignment, assembly, and transformations.
    • Module 6: Web Services. This module will introduce Microsoft .NET web services, the web service architecture in MBF, the built-in web service support in MBF for BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), and ClustalW. You will also learn how to call these services asynchronously and build custom service wrappers. In the hands-on lab, you'll build an application that executes the BLAST algorithm by using web services against handlers for BLAST, pass sequences and sequence fragments to BLAST, change the BLAST parameters, and display the results from a BLAST run.

    We hope you will join us for this free two-day event. Whether your goal is to get trained on MBF or simply to evaluate MBF and its Microsoft .NET model, you can expect to get a tremendous return on your time investment.

    We look forward to meeting you on April 19 in Chapel Hill.

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     Swatee Surve, Research Program Manager, Health and Wellbeing, Microsoft Research Connections

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Brazilian Research Celebrated

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    On March 17, Microsoft Research Connections and the São Paulo Research Foundation (better known by its Portuguese acronym: FAPESP) held a workshop to mark the ongoing collaborative efforts of the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute. The theme of the workshop—revisiting the past and planning for the future—provided the scientific community with a historical perspective on the Institute's completed projects, its ongoing initiatives, and the prospects for future investments.

    Harold Javid, Director of Microsoft Research Connections, Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, Scientific Director of FAPESP and Michel Levy, President of Microsoft Brazil during the meeting MSR-FAPESP Institute Workshop: revisiting the past and planning the future.

    Harold Javid, Director of Microsoft Research Connections, Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, Scientific Director of FAPESP and Michel Levy, President of Microsoft Brazil during the meeting MSR-FAPESP Institute Workshop: revisiting the past and planning the future. 

    The presentation of newly funded research projects broke with tradition this year: previously restricted to researchers and teams who are directly involved with the selected projects, the event was opened to all professionals and researchers interested in learning more about the opportunities created by the program. By so doing, the Institute reached out to researchers and scientists from other areas of knowledge, while simultaneously stressing the role of information technology in accelerating scientific research on priority themes.

    The event was attended by Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of FAPESP, and Michel Levy, president of Microsoft Brazil. Leonardo de Moura, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research in the United States who specializes in theorems and the optimization and verification of software, presented the first lecture, "Symbolic Reasoning @ Microsoft: Tackling Impossible Tasks." Harold Javid, the director of Microsoft Research Connections (a division of Microsoft Research) explored the theme of e-science, addressing such fertile areas for collaboration as medical imaging research, a new approach to creating digital narratives, and compelling possibilities for sharing "big time" views of history.

    Announced at the workshop were the four projects that were selected in the latest call for proposals. The researchers who were responsible for the approved proposals then made brief presentations of their studies.

    • Eleanor Patricia Cerdeira Morellato, Bioscience Institute of Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp), presented the e-Phenology project, which implements new technologies to monitor ecology and climate change in the tropics. This multidisciplinary project combines research in computer science and phenology, a branch of ecology that studies the development cycle of living organisms and its relation to such environmental conditions as temperature, light, and humidity.
    • Junia Coutinho Anacleto, Center of Exact Sciences and Technologies at Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar), presented a project that will use natural user interface (NUI) technology to help patients develop their social skills. Developed in partnership with the Center for Intensive Attention to Health (CAIS) and Clemente Ferreira, a hospital that serves people with neurological and psychiatric disorders, the project also seeks to improve the interaction between health professionals.
    • Ronaldo Fumio Hashimoto, Institute of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of São Paulo (USP), presented a project that will use math and computational modeling to examine the biological processes that underlie molecular organization and the regulatory relationships of molecules and genes. The research will use new computational and statistical techniques to understand how biological processes occur and how to prevent those that cause disease from taking place.
    • Regina Célia de Matos Pires, Instituto Agronômico (IAC), presented a project that will use environmental monitoring and genetic modeling to calculate the potential of sugarcane cultivars based on the availability of groundwater. This research is important in light of forecasts that predict expanded cultivation of sugarcane in arid regions of Brazil. Pires intends to use sensors that monitor the interactions of climate, soil, and water with the development of plants, in order to understand the dynamics that are involved in the transfer of water among the soil, plant, and atmosphere, and to illuminate its interactions in the production system.

    All of these endeavors align perfectly with the mission of the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute for IT Research, which is to support bold, innovative projects that apply technology to enable or accelerate research that will help humanity.

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    —Juliana Salles, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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