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In today’s world of data-intensive scientific research, cloud computing offers immense value. Here in Brazil, for example, researchers are working on a variety of environmental and urban studies projects that demand a highly scalable and flexible resource infrastructure—exactly what cloud computing on Windows Azure offers. So here’s some good news for Brazilian researchers: on October 15 and 16, Microsoft Research Connections, in collaboration with the Institute of Computing at UNICAMP, is offering a free two-day class on using Windows Azure for data-rich investigations.
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of cloud computing in modern research. As Professor Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of FAPESP, observes:
Cloud computing is becoming more and more common in science. The possibility to use a large number of processors and large storage is now offered by a number of services, and researchers in all areas are learning how to make the best of it. The adaptation of code usually takes some time, but the benefits in processing power tend to compensate for the additional work, especially considering that the capital costs are strongly reduced. Advanced training on the use of cloud computing for the use of broad platforms can be extremely valuable to researchers, especially for young investigators.
Ricardo da Silva Torres, director of the Institute of Computing, UNICAMP, adds his endorsement of cloud computing and the upcoming Windows Azure training:
The Azure training workshop at the Institute of Computing (UNICAMP) is a great opportunity to get in touch with cutting-edge technologies and, at the same time, to establish novel collaborations with experts interested in cloud-based solutions. We expect to offer a fruitful environment for discussion not only on practical aspects on the use of cloud technologies, but also on possible research venues to be considered in future proposals.
The Windows Azure for Research Training class will be presented by trainers who specialize in Windows Azure for research. Attendees will be able to access Windows Azure on their own laptops during the training and, for evaluation purposes, for up to six months after the event. Your laptop does not need to have the Windows operating system installed, because Windows Azure is accessed through your Internet browser.
The course is intended specifically for active scientists who are interested in coding in a modern computing context, as well as for computer scientists who are working with such researchers. This is a hands-on class, so some ability to program in a modern language is useful, but the course is suitable for researchers who are using any language, framework, or platform.
The UNICAMP session is the second of 25 classes scheduled for sites around the world, and it is a key part of the broader Windows Azure for Research initiative, which also offers sizable grants of Windows Azure resources through an open global bi-monthly RFP (Request for Proposals) program. On October 17, we will host a session at UNICAMP from 9:00 AM until noon, during which researchers interested in submitting proposals to the Windows Azure initiative or to the special Brazilian MSR-FAPESP Institute RFP will have a chance to discuss the cloud aspects of their proposals with our team.
I hope to see you in Campinas!
—Juliana Salles, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections
Sitting on a plane heading back to the Pacific Northwest, I’m reflecting on the week I just spent in Minneapolis—a week of inspiration and impact at the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing. I’m thinking about the pertinence of this year’s GHC theme, “Think Big, Drive Forward,” and how our 260-strong contingent of Microsoft employees carried that message forward. Wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the word “Innovator,” my fellow Softies and I strove to support and inspire the next generation of women computer scientists.
Aspirations in Computing Dinner Celebration at Grace Hopper.
It was invigorating to hear from Microsoft leaders Julie Larson-Green and Jacky Wright, as they, along with Maria Klawe, a Microsoft board member and president of Harvey Mudd College, informed conference attendees about career paths, technical leadership, and the future of women at Microsoft. Seeing young professionals’ eyes light up upon hearing that women comprise 29 percent of our senior leadership team, I could sense a renewed interest in careers at Microsoft.
Microsoft’s senior technical women and executives also held closed-door sessions for the company’s GHC attendees, encouraging them to drive their careers forward and be the new spirit of our company. This message took on even greater resonance, among both the Microsoft and general attendees, when it was announced that Microsoft had just been named the most inspiring American company by Forbes magazine.
While such accolades are great, we know that for our company to continue to lead technological innovations and succeed in our transformative vision of “One Microsoft,” we will need more gender diversity on our research teams. Moreover, we can build those diverse teams only if the female talent is available, which means that we need to increase the number of women who are pursuing advanced degrees in computer science. We need to take direct action, like that of my fellow researchers—A. J. Brush, Jaeyeon Jung, Jaime Teevan, and Kathryn McKinley—who spent the conference helping PhD attendees prepare their poster presentations, find their dream jobs, publish their research, and pursue career opportunities.
But attracting more women to computing is an enormous task, one that is beyond the capabilities of any one company alone. Fortunately, the country’s top computer science institutions have banned together in the National Center for Women & Information Technology Academic Alliance (NCWIT AA), a broad partnership that includes academic, nonprofit, government, and industry members. These institutions will help us truly grow the pipeline of women innovators, which is why Microsoft Research is pleased to offer them project start-up assistance through the MSR NCWIT AA Seed Fund. The seed funds are designated for initiatives that recruit and retain women in computing and IT.
My favorite part of the conference is spending time with the winners of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award. This award recognizes female high school students who have the potential to become amazing computer scientists. These young women run summer camps to excite middle school girls about computer science through Aspire IT. We were excited to support this year’s camp leaders with Surface devices and Kodu Touch, which exposed young women to game development. On Wednesday we hosted a special session with past winners and Microsoft executives, and on Friday night we honored 60 winners across the United States at meet-up sessions in 12 of our Microsoft retail stores.
Pictured from left to right: Kinect aspiration winner Rochelle Willard from USC with Rane Johnson-Stempson and Rico Malvar from Microsoft Research.
On Saturday, we ended the conference by challenging attendees to “think big and drive forward” change in disaster response during the Grace Hopper Open Source Day. Free and open source software (FOSS) usage is becoming widespread, but learning how to contribute to an existing FOSS project or to release a new open source application can be daunting. Open Source Day enabled participants to spend time coding for an existing FOSS project or to get help starting their own community-developed software project. Our Microsoft Disaster Response Team led a group of young women working to create open source applications for disaster response.
This year’s GHC inspired not only me, but 4,600 other attendees, exciting us all to change the future of technology and women in computing. If every attendee would encourage and mentor just one budding female computer scientist, we could almost double the number women studying computer science today at US universities. I am extremely optimistic we will make a difference, and I can’t wait to see the technology innovations that women will drive.
—Rane Johnson-Stempson, Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections
I can’t imagine a more perfect theme for the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing than “Think Big, Drive Forward.” It’s a message that speaks to me personally, as a new employee of Microsoft who has been thinking big things about my own career and driving ideas forward through events like GHC, the world’s largest annual event for technical women. Early in 2012, I had the opportunity to attend the CRA-W Graduate Cohort Workshop, an event specifically for women pursuing graduate degrees in computer science. Much like GHC, the Grad Cohort is an incredibly inspiring event with great potential for networking. It was during the research poster session that I met Rane Johnson, a director at Microsoft Research Connections, who shares my passion for promoting diversity in computing. Rane and I bonded immediately over the work I was presenting: computer science outreach and mentoring in rural Haiti. Our shared interests turned into an amazing opportunity for me to be Rane’s intern that summer at Microsoft Research.
After arriving at Microsoft in May 2012, I felt my previous big thinking was somewhat tiny. I had come to a place where everyone was passionate about technology and computing, and I was far from the only woman! Even before my intern orientation had ended, I knew that Microsoft was the place for me—I just wasn’t sure how to make it happen. Lucky for me, Rane’s passion for developing more female computer scientists made her the point person for organizing Microsoft’s presence at the 2012 GHC. As her intern, I played a key role in coordinating the logistics for our internal events, our booth schedule, and all communications to our attendees—from student scholarship recipients all the way to company executives. By the time I arrived in Baltimore, I was thinking really big and ready to drive my career forward! At every opportunity, I introduced myself to the other Microsoft attendees. As one of the individuals helping to organize things, I had a huge advantage in striking up conversations with all the amazing, talented women who volunteered in our booth. I was blown away by how supportive everyone was and how sincerely eager they were to help me take my career to the next level. By the end of the conference, I had snagged multiple informational interviews across the company, and my inbox was filled with job opportunities. It was through these incredible women, my new connections from GHC, that I found my current role as a program manager within Microsoft’s Operating Systems group.
I’ve now been a full-time employee just shy of eight months, and returning to GHC feels like the start of a great new phase of my career: from student presenter at the Grad Cohort, to an eager intern last year, to a new employee helping to recruit more female innovators. I’m looking forward to assisting those attendees who are thinking big things about their own careers, and I know that the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration is the perfect place for them to drive those dreams forward.
—Katie Doran, Program Manager, Operating Systems, Microsoft