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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:
Joint Initiative with University College London:
Joint Initiative with Informatics with University of Edinburgh:
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 Learn more
Microsoft Research and Zombie-Based Learning @ 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
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 ResearchOne 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.
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
We hear a lot these days about “data science,” but what is it, exactly? Data collection, data management, data wrangling, big data, broad data—these are all pieces of the data-science puzzle.
One view is that data science is all about telling stories—with data. However, the stories are definably non-fiction: it’s about separating fact from fiction, gut instinct from incontrovertible evidence.
Finding compelling storytellers is not easy. That’s why pinning down what a data scientist does is so difficult; it includes such a wide variety of tasks and required skills. It’s an interesting mix of finding the right question, then putting together the answer and presenting a narrative with numbers, analysis, charts, and animated visualizations to make the point. While Microsoft Word and PowerPoint are seen as the tools of choice for more traditional storytellers, in the new era of data-intensive research, Microsoft Excel is becoming the new star. And now it has a few nice surprises, such as Power BI for Office 365, the new multipurpose-tool for the data scientist—allowing you to clean, slice, dice, plot, map, and animate your data easily.
If you’re one of the many researchers who already use Excel extensively, these new features mean you can continue to use a familiar tool but with much wider and deeper capabilities. It’s a convenient entry point for data on the web and in the cloud, allowing you to make use of data in Windows Azure from computations, experiments, and field studies.
To find out more about how Excel and Power BI can help your research, tune into our webinar on February 26, 2014, at 16:00 UTC/GMT (08:00 PST), and we’ll walk you through how to find, query, analyze, and visualize your data in new ways. Register to join us for this free, interactive webinar.
We’d also like to hear your Windows Azure project stories. Tell us how you’re using Windows Azure in your research—what problems you’re trying to solve and how using the cloud is working out for you. Just post your story on the Windows Azure for Research LinkedIn Group and you could be chosen to tell your story at one of our worldwide events, inspiring other researchers to follow your example.
—Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect and Technical Manager, Microsoft Research Connections