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July, 2013

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.

July, 2013

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    The future of computing

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    It is becoming increasingly apparent to us all that computers are everywhere, even in our cell phones, and can help us accomplish many tasks from finding information on the Internet to analyzing large genomic data sets. This morning, Bill Gates will address how computing contributes to improving our world as he kicks off the 2013 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit. His topic reminds me of how much our conception of the role of computing has changed since the days of mainframe computers.

    The world has always needed outstanding young thinkers who possess deep theoretical understanding combined with curiosity, drive, and energy. Today’s technical opportunities and demands only increase that need. 

    The future of computer science is here. A new generation of researchers is ready to innovate world-changing technologies.

    One of the highlights of the Faculty Summit is the introduction of the latest Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows. This year, we present seven new faculty members, bringing the total to 60 Faculty Fellowships awarded since 2005. The fellowship provides them with the freedom to focus on their research courageously early in their careers. The Faculty Fellowships are just one of many programs of grants, fellowships, and internships that we offer worldwide.

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    Every year, I look forward to welcoming researchers to Microsoft’s Redmond campus for the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, which seeks to bring academia and Microsoft Research together to assess the state of the art and exchange a broad range of ideas across disciplinary and technology boundaries. Some 2,500 academics and scientists from more than 500 universities have participated in the Faculty Summits in Redmond since 2000.

    This year, more than 650 distinguished researchers will convene to explore a host of issues that the computing community is seeking to address through technology, such as finding cures for cancer, providing assistance during natural disasters, or predicting political events that can upend stability. Knowing that a physical event can’t scale to accommodate the growing interest in this event, we have added virtual programming for the broader audience. It includes the live broadcast of Bill Gates’ session and shares key content from the summit program through fast-paced Research in Focus interviews. Visit microsoftfacultysummit.com to watch it live and online July 15, 09:00–17:30 Pacific Time.

    Watch the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit live and online, July 15, 2013, 9:00-17:30 PT

    I am certain you will gain insights and value through your virtual attendance at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit, so I encourage you to watch the live stream. You’ll not only hear from (and have the opportunity to question) leading researchers, you’ll also be able to learn about the opportunities to engage with us in the quest to improve the world through technical innovation.

    —Harold Javid, General Chair, Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2013

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    Joint research center reaches new heights for environmental sciences

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    Joint research center reaches new heights for environmental sciences

    I enjoy being able to work in technology because it has the potential for great impact in a range of research areas. But, more specifically, I have the privilege to work with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) in Brazil to achieve that goal. Together, Microsoft Research and FAPESP created a joint research center in 2006—the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute for IT Research—that has been going strong ever since.

    The Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute for IT Research supports high-quality fundamental research in information and communication technologies. In the beginning, the center focused on addressing social and economic development needs in the São Paulo region. However, in recent years, the research has focused primarily on learning about the environment by using advanced technologies.

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    Fueling the Future: FAPESP

    I am very pleased to announce that the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute for IT Research recently concluded its sixth request for proposal (RFP) cycle by selecting two winning proposals in the area of environmental sciences.

    The objective of the sixth RFP was to explore the application of computing science to the challenges of basic research in areas related to global climate change and the environmental sciences. Researchers worldwide acknowledge that technology can provide powerful tools for environmental research, benefiting society and aiding in the planet’s sustainability. As such, this request for proposals focused on turning data into knowledge.
    Respondents had the option of developing their own technology application or using an existing technology that was developed by Microsoft Research (for example, research accelerators that can be used to manage, publish, analyze, or visualize a research project, or new tools for science).

    The two winning proposals from the submissions received are:

    Towards an Understanding of Tipping Points within Tropical South American Biomes, submitted by Principal Investigator Ricardo Torres of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP)

    Combining New Technologies to Monitor Phenology from Leaves to Ecosystems, submitted by Principal Investigator Patrícia Morellato of the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP)

    Notably, Morellato’s project is a follow-up to the recently concluded e-Phenology project, which was selected under the fourth Microsoft Research-FAPESP RFP. The research team also submitted a proposal to the Computational Ecology and Environmental Science (CEES) team and was awarded with a set of Mataki sensors to monitor small animals in the location where they are already monitoring the vegetation. The goal of that project is to explore correlations between the vegetation and small animals’ behavior and to gather a more complete understanding of how the ecosystem functions.

    Congratulations to both the UNICAMP and UNESP teams on their winning submissions! I look forward to seeing the results of their research.

    —Juliana Salles, Senior Research Project Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Summit explores the promise of computing

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    Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research Connections, addresses the participants at Faculty  Summit 2013.The Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2013—the fourteenth edition of this annual event—is now history, but I’m still catching my breath after two days of meeting and sharing ideas with some of the world’s foremost computer scientists. In attendance were more than 400 representatives of academic institutions from more than 29 countries around the world, along with researchers from Microsoft Research’s 13 worldwide labs—all drawn by the common purpose of exploring the power of computing to solve real-world problems.

    The cloud, machine learning, big data, and, of course, software engineering, were key topics of the summit. However, as I mentioned in my opening remarks at the event, the overarching idea is to put technological resources together to reach informed, intelligent decisions that can help solve critical problems. With the cloud providing the storage and processing power, machine learning providing the analytical tools, and the deluge of data, computer science researchers have the capacity to make an impact in healthcare, environmental protection, criminal justice, education—virtually every arena of the world’s challenges.

    The opening keynote by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates was an extended Q&A, with Bill answering question after question from the onsite audience and online viewers. This set just the right tone, marking the summit as a forum for interactive, wide-ranging discussions about the promise of technology as a change agent.

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    Opening keynote: Innovation & Opportunity—
    the Contribution of Computing to Improving Our World

    The open and honest discussion continued throughout the two days, from formal breakout sessions devoted to such topics as gene sequencing, quantum computing, prediction markets, spam marketing, and visual recognition, to informal meetings in the corridors and lounges throughout the Microsoft Conference Center. You couldn’t swing a cat —Schrodinger’s or otherwise—without hitting a cluster of experts debating some aspect of modern computing and its potential.

    In addition to Bill Gates’ opening keynote, we heard powerful, thought-provoking addresses from Doug Burger, director of client and cloud applications at Microsoft, who challenged us to take advantage of changes in the hardware ecosystem; vice presidents Peter Lee and Jeannette Wing, the new co-leaders of Microsoft Research, who gave us their vision of the rewards of basic research; and Clay Shirky, the prominent author and professor at New York University, who opened our minds to the power of new media and the intrinsic “messiness” created by online crowds.

    In his opening keynote, Bill Gates answered questions from the onsite audience as well as online viewers.
    In his opening keynote, Bill Gates answered questions from the onsite audience
    as well as online viewers.

    A gathering like this is a great opportunity for learning, but even those who were not there could share at least some of the experience through the live streaming webcast that took place during the first day of the summit. This program not only captured the day’s opening and closing addresses, it took full advantage of the high-powered assemblage by streaming live interviews with world-class experts on topics as varied as crisis informatics, cancer therapy, and automated sign language interpretation.
     
    If you missed the live webcast, don’t worry. The entire program is available on demand. Watch the segments that we streamed live on our Virtual Faculty Summit page and find links to the individual sessions (as well as the presenters’ slides) on our Agenda page. So click on over and get ready to be inspired, just as I was by seeing the computer science community at its best.

    Tony Hey, Vice President, Microsoft Research Connections

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