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Throughout the world, women are vastly underrepresented in computer science and technology fields. In Asia, females make up only 20 percent of the computer science workforce—a situation that is unlikely to change unless we can convince girls that careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) are not just appropriate but highly rewarding pursuits for women.
It was with this goal in mind that Microsoft Research sponsored its 2014 International Women’s Hackathon, a three-day event that connected women on college campuses around the world, including those in Korea and Japan. The sponsors identified five goals for the event:
International Women’s Hackathon in Korea
In Korea, where the STEM fields are recognized as a driving force in economic growth, Yonsei University served as the host campus for the International Women’s Hackathon. More than 50 female students from 10 major universities—including Yonsei University, Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), and Ewha Womans University—gathered on Yonsei’s International campus in Songdo, working tirelessly to develop their skills in planning and developing applications. The participants not only planned their projects and wrote the code, they also pitched their ideas via video presentations. Their innovative projects included apps that promoted women’s networking, science education for women, STEM education in general, as well as an app that prevents drivers from texting while they’re behind the wheel.
A panel of five judges, all highly regarded professors in IT-related research areas, selected the top two teams and also conferred an award for the team with the best original idea. The first prize went to Yonsei University’s Bamsaem-Sarang team. (The name means, “loves working overnight,” which tells you something about their dedication to the project!) This team developed an app called Zookeeper, which teaches coding via an easy-to-use, Sudoku-like game. The app’s use of “gamified” learning—borrowing techniques that have been employed to teach Korean youngsters English—makes learning fun rather than drudgery. Youngseon Na, a member of the winning team, spoke about the importance of the impact of the women’s hackathon. “Some of my friends have doubted whether I could succeed in science and engineering because I’m a woman, but I don’t think gender matters if I’m happy and doing what I want. I felt really happy during this competition—excited to be coding under a 24-hour deadline, and enjoying the experience of self-development.”
The winning Bamsaem-Sarang team: Yeong-seon Na, Hyo-jeong Kim, Hong-ju Lee, and Gwang-seon Kim (mentor)
Meanwhile, in Japan, the International Women’s Hackathon was hosted at Ochanomizu University, one of the country’s most prestigious women’s universities. Women graduates and undergraduates from several Japanese universities, including a contingent from Waseda University and Tokyo Institute of Technology, gathered for the event. On day one, they were treated to a keynote address from Dr. Hitomi Tsujita, an alumna of Ochanomizu University and the founder and CEO of an outsourcing startup. She motivated the students, telling them of her experiences as a visiting researcher at Georgia Tech in the United States and describing how she achieves work-life balance as the mother of two and the CEO of a startup.
International Women’s Hackathon in Japan
After getting to know one another, the attendees formed themselves into five teams and then spent the remainder of day one and all of day two hacking away at their projects. On day three, a panel of three eminent professors selected Team Kudaran as the overall winner, for their creation of COSMOS the Witch Girl, an authoring tool that enables teachers to create simple games and stories that teach science concepts. The judges were especially impressed by the quality and scalability of the application.
Winning Kudaran team
Those of us at Microsoft Research are very pleased to have played a role in helping young women around the world see the potential in computing and technology careers. The Korean and Japanese participation in the International Women’s Hackathon helped excite female students about science and engineering and set the stage for the further cultivation of innovative, technology-minded women leaders.
—Miran Lee, Principal Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia
—Noboru Kuno, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia
The advent of electronic medical records is transforming the care of patients in hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices around the world. Offering complete documentation of a patient’s medical history, digitized records are improving the accuracy of diagnoses and the continuity of patient care, which, in turn, means improved patient outcomes.
Electronic medical records can be especially useful in the diagnosis of pneumonia, which has a nasty habit of appearing after a patient has been hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU). Currently, such diagnoses are made by consensus, after a thorough chart review of the patient’s medical tests and clinical notes.
This means that a physician must comb through hand-written records and copious test results to reach the correct diagnosis—a time-consuming, resource-intensive process. Now, my colleagues and I at the University of Washington, in collaboration with Microsoft researcher Lucy Vanderwende and using Microsoft Research Splat (Statistical Parsing and Linguistic Analysis Toolkit), have created deCIPHER, a project that demonstrates the potential to use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to diagnose such critical illnesses automatically from the patient’s electronic medical records.
We studied the diagnosis of pneumonia in approximately 100 patients being treated in the ICU at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. By using the electronic medical records of these patients—whose pneumonia diagnoses had already been established by clinical consensus—we employed state-of-the-art NLP tools from Microsoft to identify the critical clinical information. We then ran that data through a machine-learning framework to see if the software could be trained to correctly diagnose the pneumonia cases based solely on an automated review of the digital medical records. The results were so promising—the software achieved a correct diagnosis with correct time-of-onset for positive cases in 84 percent of the patients—that our clinical collaborators are considering the addition of our pneumonia-detection models to the dashboard they use to monitor ICU patients.
—Meliha Yetisgen, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics, University of Washington
When world-class research organizations work together on a long-term basis, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That premise underlies Microsoft Research’s collaborative projects and joint ventures around the globe, including our recently renewed joint research center with Inria (the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation).
Since its founding in 2006, the Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Centre has innovatively applied computer science and mathematics to a host of scientific challenges, from formal methods for mathematics to distributed systems and security, computer vision and medical imaging, machine learning and big data, and social networks and privacy.
Microsoft Research – Inria includes 100 researchers overall: 40 permanent researchers from Inria, 30 permanent researchers from Microsoft Research, and 30 non-permanent researchers (interns and postdoctoral and PhD students, representing some 23 nationalities). Today, May 19, the Joint Centre continued its quest to use computing to help solve big problems, hosting an event that reported on the ambitious projects currently underway (see the list later in this blog). The event also featured the following keynotes from some of the world’s foremost computing experts, including Jeanette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, who gave an inspiring presentation on how the joint research center is important to science, technology and society.
Jeanette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research
Georges Gonthier, principal researcher and team leader at Inria
Bertrand Thirion, director of research at the Joint Centre
The Joint Centre is currently focusing on the following projects:
Projects on formal methods and their applications
Projects on machine learning and big data
Projects on computer vision and medical imaging
Projects on social networks and privacy
All told, this one-day event captured the essence of the valuable research taking place at the Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Research Centre, and it points out the value of our long-term investments in collaborative ventures.
—Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA
—Pierre-Louis Xech, Microsoft Research-Inria Joint Centre Deputy Director, Microsoft France