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February, 2014

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.

February, 2014

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    2014 Microsoft Research PhD Scholarship projects announced


    Every year since 2004, the Microsoft Research PhD Scholarship Programme has awarded scholarships to fund PhD students’ work on selected projects in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. We are pleased to announce the selected PhD projects for 2014.

    The selection process was anything but easy. We received 79 eligible project proposals, which we assessed via a two-stage review process. During stage 1, a panel of Microsoft Researchers determined whether the proposed project met the basic selection criteria, including relevance to topics that are being researched at Microsoft Research Cambridge. Those proposals that advanced to stage 2 were then evaluated by internal and external reviewers, who provided detailed feedback.

    As a result of this comprehensive evaluation process, we selected 22 projects that will receive funding through Microsoft Research Connections starting in the academic year 2014–2015. These include eight proposals that relate to the new Joint Initiative with University College London and the Joint Initiative in Informatics with Edinburgh University.
    The 22 projects split across seven countries in the EMEA region (Belgium, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) and represent a variety of research areas, including computational biology, machine learning, health science, geo and environmental science, and computer science. Applicants, who are PhD supervisors, will collaborate with an assigned Microsoft Research co-supervisor to support a PhD student for up to three years as he or she carries out the proposed research project. Supervisors are actively recruiting graduate students for these PhD projects; candidate selection should be complete by June 2015.

    Below is a list of the selected projects, including the PhD supervisor and the institution:

    • Large-Scale Diverse Learning for Structured Output Prediction
      Pawan Kumar, Ecole Centrale Paris, INRIA Saclay
    • Computational Algorithms as Biological Regulatory Networks
      Attila Csikasz-Nagy, King's College London
    • Leveraging Data Reuse for Efficient Ranker Evaluation in Information Retrieval
      Maarten De Rijke, University of Amsterdam
    • Sketching Algorithms for Massive Graphs and Matrices
      Graham Cormode, University of Warwick
    • Verifying Concurrent Higher-Order Programs
      Matthew Hague, Royal Holloway University of London
    • GeoGraph: Efficient Geographically Distributed Graph Infrastructure
      Fernando Pedone, University of Lugano
    • Computation During Development: Characterising the Molecular Programs that Underlie Pluripotency and Differentiation in Embryoni
      Brian Hendrich, University of Cambridge
    • The Generality and Mechanism of Bet-Hedging in Bacteria
      James Locke, Sainsbury Laboratory
    • Statistical Models and Methods for Privacy Technologies
      Claudia Diaz, KU Leuven
    • Rethinking Resource Allocation in Data Centres: Optimization, Incentives, and Beyond
      Michael Schapira, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    • Why Do People Communicate?
      Constantine Sandis, Oxford Brookes University
    • Reasoning about Side Channels in Cryptographic Protocols
      Boris Köpf, IMDEA Software Institute
    • Understanding Flows of Personal Information in a Connected World
      Alastair Beresford, University of Cambridge
    • Advancing Random Forests and Other Ensembles
      Nando De Freitas, University of Oxford

    Joint Initiative with University College London:

    • 3D World: Creation, Abstraction, and Application of Massive Crowd-sourced Collections of Heterogeneous 3D Models
      Niloy Mitra
    • Private Computation as a Service
      George Danezis
    • Understanding the Moving Quadruped: Computer Vision to Advance Science, Medicine, and Veterinary Care
      Gabriel Brostow
    • Ad-hoc Cross-Device Interactions Facilitating Small-Group Collaborative Explorations and Curation of Historic Documents
      Nicolai Marquardt

    Joint Initiative with Informatics with University of Edinburgh:

    • Vision as Inverse Graphics
      Christopher Williams
    • TypeScript: The Next Generation
      Philip Wadler
    • Formal Language Support for Ecological Modelling
      Jane Hillston
    • SMT for Nonlinear Constraints with Application to Computational Biology
      Paul Jackson

    Thank you to all who applied this year.

    We look forward to receiving equally stimulating project proposals for next year’s PhD scholarships. Mark your calendar for September 1, 2014, when the submission tool for the 2015 applications will open.
    —Daron Green, Director, Microsoft Research

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    ChronoZoom and zombies head to SXSWedu


    I can’t believe how much has happened in just one year. This time last year, we had just released the beta version of ChronoZoom, and the content and development community had created two mini-releases on their own. Key members of the ChronoZoom team were heading off to SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas, to accept the SXSW Interactive Award for Best Educational Resource.

    Not content to rest on their laurels, the cross-functional, collaborative ChronoZoom team—made up of people from Microsoft Research; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Washington; and Moscow State University—immediately began working on ChronoZoom’s next release. The team was eager to add an authoring tool so that anyone—teacher, student, or researcher—can create timelines and tours inside ChronoZoom.

    ChronoZoom is being used to help teach historical thinking
    ChronoZoom is being used to help teach historical thinking

    And while we were hard at work on this, outside developers were building creative applications with ChronoZoom. For instance, a team at the University of Alberta created Dino101, a specialized version of ChronoZoom that focuses on important events in Earth’s geological history. Then in the fall of 2013, a group of advanced placement high-school students in St. Louis, Missouri, used ChronoZoom to create a collaborative timeline on world religions. The pedagogical value of ChronoZoom shines through in their comments, such as this from student Dimitri Rucker:

    ChronoZoom changed the way I thought about history, because of the format it’s displayed in. With the zooming capabilities, you can quickly and visually learn about history, all the way from cosmos to humanity now…With ChronoZoom, we incorporated the timeline of religion and philosophy and how they have affected history throughout time. And by using ChronoZoom, it is easier to show the large timeline of events to help explain how religion has affected the world.

    We were elated to see ChronoZoom being used to help bridge the gap between science and humanities. It confirmed our belief that this visualization tool can serve as a great open education resource.

    In March 2013, we launched ChronoZoom 2.0, which has gained even more traction in the education community. Working with our curriculum partners at the University of North Carolina’s School of Education, we’ve developed showcase curricula that really demonstrate the education potential of ChronoZoom.

    Now we are excited to be represented at this year’s SXSWedu event, where curriculum designer David Hunter will present his Zombie-Based Learning Curriculum as well as the ChronoZoomers Guild project that utilizes ChronoZoom and teaches historical thinking in a time-traveling scenario. I am happy to hand this blog over to David, who will describe his session and his work with ChronoZoom.

    Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research

    One year after the launch of ChronoZoom, we’ve made significant strides in utilizing the ChronoZoom open education resource tool to help teach historical thinking in today’s K-12 classrooms in the United States. Implementing any new tech tool in the classroom can be a challenge, so we worked hard to provide support for teachers as well as an engaging experience for students.

    Click to read a memo to the time-traveling members of the ChronoZoomers Guild (courtesy of David Hunter)Working directly with the ChronoZoom team at Microsoft Research, we’ve recently launched a free curriculum that I developed to teach historical thinking by immersing students in researching the effects of manipulating history. To engage students, we’ve created an original story that complements the curriculum. In the story, an organization from the future, known as the ChronoZoomers Guild, is working to prevent historical atrocities for the betterment of future timelines. Within the story framework, students create their own timelines by using ChronoZoom to present and support their historical arguments.

    Based on my experience as a middle-school humanities teacher, I designed the story, projects, and lessons to teach students not only historical content, but also how to think like historians. These historical thinking skills, such as understanding causality or historical research, meet the latest standards (CCSS, C3, and National History) in teaching history and social studies. Using the ChronoZoom tool with this curriculum greatly helps teachers meet those standards authentically. The curriculum also supports project-based learning and has proven to engage and excite students in developing critical, historical thinking skills.

    With the options to use the free tool, curriculum, or story, K-12 teachers have several choices of how to integrate ChronoZoom in their classroom, allowing them to discover strategies to enhance student learning experiences by engaging in deeper thinking about both historical concepts and technology. We'll be discussing strategies to support teachers and engage students at our SXSWedu workshop this year. Be sure to check it out!

    David Hunter, Chief Survival Officer, Zombie-Based Learning

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    DataUp rises to new curatorial heights


    DataUp, an award-winning program for data curation, is now better than ever, thanks to a significant upgrade released today. This new, more robust version of DataUp includes substantial usability improvements for scientific users needing data management support and, in addition, has entirely new functionality to enable repository administrators to add and manage their repositories from within the DataUp application.

    DataUp: simplify data sharing

    In the new version of DataUp, repository administrators can set up associative metadata via the UI or by uploading an XML file. This gives them the flexibility to define what metadata is required—even on a discipline-by-discipline basis—and to constrain the file-level metadata that will be captured from the user upon data deposit. In addition, administrators can activate the Data Quality Check, a new data validation feature that enables the DataUp tool to verify whether a user’s uploaded file meets certain requirements for the repository.

    The DataUp upgrade will be officially unveiled at the 2014 International Data Curation Conference (IDCC2014) in San Francisco, which runs from February 24 to 27. The code is available as open source (Apache 2.0) on Bitbucket as of today, February 24. We encourage you to download the code and share it with other data curators—and to let us know what you think. And if you’ll be attending IDCC2014, we would be delighted if you would participate in the Microsoft Research workshop on Data Management in the Cloud, which will cover various topics such as how to use DataUp to manage your data in the cloud; also, be sure to stop by the poster session at the IDCC event.

    This release marks the culmination of a project that started in conjunction with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and which has included substantial information gathering and user support work done by the California Digital Library (CDL). CDL has also written a blog post on the new release.

    Presently, DataUp supports two different types of repositories, though more can be added via repository adapters: (1) a personal or organizational Microsoft OneDrive repository or (2) a repository that adheres to the ONEShare standard developed by the California Digital Library. 

    One thing I can truly say is that a project like this takes a village. This release has been a long time coming and I am very thankful to my partners at the Moore Foundation and CDL; and my colleagues in the Education and Scholarly Communication and Earth, Energy and Environment teams that put in the time and effort to bring this release to fruition.

    Kristin Tolle, Director for Environmental Development Infrastructure, Microsoft Research Connections

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