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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

    Grants and scholarships promote women’s participation in computing

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    As many of you know—especially if you’ve been reading my blog posts—the participation of women in computer science continues to decline. Last year, women accounted for only 14 percent of computer science college graduates in the United States, according to the Computing Research Association. That’s down from 37 percent in 1985, despite US Department of Labor statistics that show computing to be among the fastest-growing career fields, with a shortage of qualified candidates to fill available openings. In addition, studies reveal that executives value the variety of perspectives that comes with team diversity, yet another reason for needing greater female participation in computing fields.

    Innovate to impact the world.

     As a technology company and innovation leader, Microsoft is passionate about increasing the participation of women in computing. To do so, we must attract more female students to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. To maintain their interest in STEM programs, we can increase young women's exposure to the myriad opportunities in computer science and provide them with support during their undergraduate and graduate STEM studies. This is why Microsoft Research is proud to support the NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund and to fund the Microsoft Research Graduate Women’s Scholarship.

    The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community of more than 500 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology. NCWIT helps organizations more effectively recruit, retain, and advance girls and women in K-12 through college education, and from academic to corporate and startup careers. The NCWIT Academic Alliance brings together nearly 750 distinguished representatives from academic computing programs at more than 275 colleges and universities across the country—spanning research universities, community colleges, women’s colleges, and minority-serving institutions. In 2007, Microsoft Research initiated the Seed Fund in partnership with NCWIT Academic Alliance. The NCWIT Academic Alliance Seed Fund provides US academic institutions with grants (up to US$10,000 per project) to develop and implement initiatives for recruiting and retaining women in computer science and information technology fields of study. Through 2013, the Seed Fund had awarded US$465,450.

    In partnership with NCWIT Academic Alliance, we are pleased to announce the 2014 winners:

    • College of St. Scholastica (Jennifer Rosato)
      Promoting Female and Diverse Student Retention through Faculty Use of a Growth Mindset Approach
      This project will provide professional development for faculty at The College of St. Scholastica, helping them to instil a growth mindset among women and minority students who are majoring in computer science and associated concentrations, as well as fostering the continued interest of students taking pre-engineering courses.
    • Georgia Gwinnett College (Sonal Dekhane, Kristine Nagel, and Nannette Napier)
      Georgia Gwinnett College Women in IT Boot Camp
      A weeklong workshop, the boot camp will give 24 promising female IT sophomores an opportunity to get a head start in programming.
    • South Carolina Technical College System (Stephanie Frazier and Salandra Bowman)
      SCTCS Triple A Academy
      The academy will immerse 10 to 14 female students—each of whom is enrolled in a certificate, diploma, or degree IT program—in a one-week program that promotes ability, acuity, and audacity (the triple As) in IT-related fields.
    • Tufts University (Benjamin Shapiro)
      Engaging Women in Computing through Musical Instrument and Performance
      This unique project will design a curriculum and an accompanying set of hardware and software tools that teach computational thinking and engineering through the design and construction of tangible, programmable electronic musical instruments that youth can use for live performances.
    • University of Arizona (Gondy Leroy and Paulo Goes)
      Tomorrow’s Leaders Equipped for Diversity
      The university’s department of management information systems (MIS) will team with industry to make computer science and MIS students aware of diversity issues, with a special focus on gender, preparing the students to be leaders and managers who are equipped to both counter the problems and leverage the benefits of diversity.

    In addition, we know that a woman’s first two years of computer science graduate study are the most critical. During this time, she must determine her area of focus, increase her confidence in the field, enhance her capabilities in publishing and research, and build her network. This is why Microsoft Research created the Graduate Women’s Scholarship, which provides a US$15,000 stipend, plus a US$2,000 travel and conference allowance, to women in their second year of graduate study at a US or Canadian university. The scholarship helps recipients gain visibility in their departments, acquire mentorship, and cover the burgeoning cost of graduate programs.

    We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Microsoft Research Graduate Women's Scholarship:

    • Anne Holladay, Carnegie Mellon University
    • Claire Chow, University of Notre Dame
    • Yunmeng Ban, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    • Sruthi Polali, Rice University
    • Nan-Chen Chen, University of Washington
    • Ghazal Fazelnia, Columbia University
    • Tesca Fitzgerald, Georgia Institute of Technology
    • Angelica Ruszkowski, University of British Columbia
    • Brooke Fugate, University of Pennsylvania
    • Elizabeth Mamantov, University of Michigan

    Congratulations to all the winning programs and students. We look forward to great things from 2014’s women in computing.

    Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections
     
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    Building cloud virtual machines for research

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    As regular readers of this blog know, the Windows Azure for Research program recurrently solicits proposals on the use of Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform, in scholarly research. Winning projects receive a one-year allocation of Windows Azure storage and compute resources.

    We review these proposals on the fifteenth of even-numbered months (February, April, June, and so forth), so the next deadline, February 15, is fast approaching. This marks our third round of solicitations, and the response so far has been outstanding, as a review of current grantees and their projects attests.

    New RFP series focuses on specific cloud-based research topics

    In addition to these standing, bi-monthly requests for proposals, we are initiating a new set of calls, focused on specific cloud-based research topics. Submissions for the first of these special calls are due on April 15, 2014.

    Our first special call—Science VMs for Research—requests proposals to build virtual machine (VM) images that can be shared with communities of users. While it is standard practice for scientific communities to share important open-source, domain-specific software tools, using these tools often involves complex installation procedures or the resolution of library conflicts. Cloud computing obviates such impediments by enabling communities to share a complete operating system image, pre-installed with all the tools needed by specialized groups of users. Thus, a newcomer to the group can install the image in the cloud and be doing productive work very quickly. Moreover, the community can keep the cloud-based VM image updated with the latest version of the software.

    Microsoft Open Technologies operates VM Depot, a community-driven catalog of preconfigured operating systems, applications, and development stacks—VM images that can installed in minutes by anyone with a Windows Azure account. Several VM Depot images have proven popular with the scientific community. For example, Elastacloud has donated an image called Azure Data Analysis, which includes R, IPython, and a number of high quality open-source, data analysis tools. Several other domain-specific VMs are in the works.

    The Science VMs for Research call will provide grants of Windows Azure resources to develop and test new contributions to the VM Depot. Submit your proposals for the special call via our submission site; proposals should include “Science VM” in the project title and must be received by April 15.

    We’re looking forward to reviewing both the February 15 and April 15 proposals, as we work together to bring the power of cloud computing to scholarly and scientific research.

    Dennis Gannon, Director of Cloud Research Strategy, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    From flying robots to energy-efficient memory systems

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    Today, February 5, 2014, marked the kickoff workshop for the Swiss Joint Research Center (Swiss JRC), a collaborative research engagement between Microsoft Research and the two universities that make up the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology: ETH Zürich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, which serves German-speaking students) and EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, which serves French-speaking students).

    Introducing the new Swiss Joint Research Center

    The Swiss JRC is a continuation of a collaborative engagement that began five years ago, when these same three partners embarked on ICES (Innovation Cluster for Embedded Software). In renewing our collaboration, we have broadened and deepened the computer science engagements, as we chart a course for another five years of research.

    During the two-day workshop at Microsoft Research Cambridge, we will launch seven new projects that constitute the next wave of research collaborations for the Swiss JRC. Today, we heard EPFL’s Edouard Bugnion describe the planned work of the Scale-Out NUMA project, which involves the study of the computer architectural and system software implications of aggressive scale-out, energy-efficient computing in datacenters.

    Workshop speakers, listed clockwise from upper left: Daron Green, Andrew Blake, James Larus, and Markus Püschel
    Workshop speakers, listed clockwise from upper left: Daron Green, Andrew Blake,
    James Larus (EPFL), and Markus Püschel (ETH Zürich)

    Now I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions, especially the presentation by Otmar Hilliges (ETH Zürich), who will discuss the fascinating topic of human-centric flight. This proposed research seeks to create an entirely new form of interactive systems, leveraging micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs), also known as flying robots, to create novel user experiences. This project could have a profound impact on our future ability to navigate environments that are inhospitable to people or standard land-based robots.

    Attendees of the kickoff workshop for the Swiss JRC
    Attendees of the kickoff workshop for the Swiss JRC

    The following seven projects will be launched at the workshop:

    Scale-Out NUMA
    Edouard Bugnion, EPFL
    Babak Falsafi, EPFL
    Dushyanth Narayanan, Microsoft Research

    Micro-Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) for Interaction, Videography, and 3D Reconstruction
    Otmar Hilliges, ETH Zürich
    Marc Pollefeys, ETH Zürich
    Shahram Izadi, Microsoft Research

    Software-Defined Networks: Algorithms and Mechanisms
    Roger Wattenhofer, ETHZ
    Ratul Mahajan, Microsoft Research

    Investigation into fundamental issues concerning software-defined networks and how they can be tackled using a game theory approach

    Efficient Data Processing Through Massive Parallelism and FPGA-Based Acceleration
    Gustavo Alonso, ETH Zürich
    Ken Eguro, Microsoft Research

    Exploration of efficient implementation of FPGAs as co-processors in data centers and support for database querying

    Authenticated Encryption: Security Notions, Constructions, and Applications
    Serge Vaudenay, EPFL
    Ilya Mironov and Markulf Kohlweiss, Microsoft Research

    Developing enhanced security notions for authenticated encryption schemes and proving that they are secure

    Towards Resource Efficient Data Centers
    Florin Dinu, EPFL
    Sergey Legtchenko, Microsoft Research

    Researching how memory can be best utilized in homogeneous computational situations, where the operating system must handle parallel, data-intensive tasks

    Availability and Reliability as a Resource for Large-Scale in Memory Databases on Datacenter Computers
    Torsten Hoefler, ETHZ
    Miguel Castro, Microsoft Research

    Researching new approaches to building resilience and predicting resilience in systems with more economical, lower levels of redundancy

    These projects represent some of the most interesting and engaging research challenges in Microsoft Research’s broad portfolio of university partnerships. I particularly value the opportunity to share our domain expertise in these open collaborations with two of the world’s top computer-science research departments. All three organizations bring unique perspectives and great talent to the collaboration, and all focus on solving tough technical challenges in areas as diverse as human-computer interaction, machine vision, performance and energy scalability, mobile computing, and data center optimization.

    I’ll keep you up to date on this journey over the coming months and years, as the Swiss JRC works to accelerate scientific discoveries and breakthroughs that push the boundaries of our imagination.

    Daron Green, Senior Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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