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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.

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft researcher adds industry wisdom to Stanford HCI course

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    On June 4, students, teaching staff, and guests gathered at Stanford University for the final presentations for CS247—Interaction Design Studio. While this core class in the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) track is offered every year, this year it was taught by two industrial researchers—I was invited to teach the class along with Jofish Kaye from Yahoo! Labs. Combining the creativity and energy of Stanford students with the experience and practical wisdom of industry provided a unique opportunity for the class. The final projects focused on rich, everyday communication tools, an area fueled by the popularity of apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Vine. Students went through an intense design process that involved iteratively building prototypes and observing how users interacted with them. 

    Collage with Friends
    The Collage with Friends project designed by team JJD was presented at the Stanford University presentation showcase.

    The projects and creativity shown by the students never ceases to amaze me. Projects included tools that encouraged more creative communication spurred by recent social events or creative photo, video, or artistic collections; better communication with parents; and improving musical technique through a live critique session. The final presentation session was a frenzy of grading activity, providing demos for industry-celebrity judges, and networking with guests and visitors.

    Merrie Morris, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research judges Project Duzaro at the Stanford University Interaction Design Studio student showcase.
    A student listens as Merrie Morris, senior researcher at Microsoft Research judges Project Duzaro at the Stanford University Interaction Design Studio student showcase.

    By teaching this design-project class at Stanford, we were able to offer the students a real-world, hands-on experience and I found it particularly rewarding to pass on knowledge to the next generation of computer scientists—a rare opportunity for those of us in industry. This experience developed stronger relationships with the university as well as with students, who could one day become employees at Microsoft. In addition, it brought together industry team coaches and judges in the field of HCI, allowing us to take advantage of Microsoft Research’s strategic location in Silicon Valley to connect with the local research community. I hope to have more opportunities for this kind of teaching experience in the future.

    John Tang, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research

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    Microsoft Research connects with software engineers at ICSE

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    Cybercity—there is no place quite like it. Home to numerous high-tech companies as well as the Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC), this ever-growing part of Hyderabad, India, is the perfect location for the 36th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE). This gathering of 1,200 computer scientists from around the world covers topics as varied as crowdsourcing and green computing, mining software repositories, and mobile computing. And Microsoft Research personnel are playing a huge part in the event, presenting 20 papers and speaking at a total of 10 keynotes, tutorials, and panel sessions.

    We are particularly delighted that Corporate Vice President Jeannette Wing will be part of the CTO Round Table, along with representatives of two large local companies, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services. Reflecting on the importance of this conference, Wing notes that, “Developing software in this age of `mobile first, cloud first’ requires attention to scale, speed, and security like never before. These trends, along with the democratization of the software ecosystem, provide new opportunities for the ICSE research community.”

    The Microsoft Research team on the first day of ICSE 2014, L-R back row: Pratap Lakshman, Patrice Godefroid, David Molnar, Tom Zimmermann, Chris Bird, Judith Bishop, Dongmei Zhang; front row: Aditya Nori, Nikolai Tillmann, Nikolaj Bjorner, Andrew Begel, Hucheng Zhou
     The Microsoft Research team on the first day of ICSE 2014, L-R back row: Pratap Lakshman, Patrice Godefroid, David Molnar, Tom Zimmermann, Chris Bird, Judith Bishop, Dongmei Zhang; front row: Aditya Nori, Nikolai Tillmann, Nikolaj Bjorner, Andrew Begel, Hucheng Zhou

    Walking around the pre-conference workshops, I am struck by how many of the assembled academics and students have been touched by Microsoft’s programs over the past five years. Some have received Microsoft Awards for the Software Engineering Innovation Foundation (SEIF); others were interns in our worldwide labs or attended one of our many outreach events, including Faculty Summits, SEIF Days, and workshops. Still others are members of our Joint Research Centers or have collaborated with Microsoft Research on research projects. Many of these folks have come up to me to express their appreciation of Microsoft’s involvement in research and their excitement about their future plans.

    As a measure of our collaborative approach, I note that 19 of our 20 papers are written jointly with academics and/or with researchers from other companies, often from across the globe. Two examples caught my eye: “Using Psycho-Physiological Measures to Assess Task Difficulty in Software Development,” co-authored by researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland and Microsoft Research and Exponent, both in the United States; and “Software Engineering and Automated Deduction,” with authors from Stellenbosch University in South Africa and Microsoft Research and SRI Computer Science Lab, both in the United States.

    We are also presenting several papers on TouchDevelop and the first paper on Code Hunt. We are very happy that this year, for the first time, members of the MSIDC are attending ICSE. It is fascinating to hear them discuss how they are working with the researchers to move projects from pure research over into our major development platform, Visual Studio.

    And now to a very special announcement: each year, ICSE recognizes the paper from the ICSE meeting of 10 years earlier that is judged to have had the most influence on software engineering in the decade since. This year, the ICSE Most Influential Paper award goes to Tom Zimmermann of Microsoft Research and his co-authors, Peter Weißgerber and Stephan Diehl, both of the University of Trier in Germany, and Andreas Zeller of Saarland University in Germany. Their 2004 paper, “Mining Version Histories to Guide Software Changes,” was a milestone in applying data analytics to a significant software repository in order to glean insights in software development. It quickly influenced what has become a very important line of research in our community: the mining of software repositories.

    Tom Zimmermann of Microsoft Research presenting at ICSE 2014. Tom received two honors at the conference, one of which was for his co-authorship of the Most Influential Paper presented at ICSE 2004.Tom Zimmermann of Microsoft Research presenting at ICSE 2014. Tom received two honors at the conference, one of which was for his co-authorship of the Most Influential Paper presented at ICSE 2004.

    In addition, Zimmermann’s paper, “Cowboys, Ankle Sprains, and Keepers of Quality: How Is Video Game Development Different from Software Development?”—co-authored with Emerson Murphy-Hill of North Carolina State University and Nachiappan Nagappan of Microsoft Research—has been named one of this year’s nine ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Papers. Congratulations to Tom, Nachi, and their collaborators.

    Of course, attending a conference involves more than listening to papers. I am “working the halls,” chatting with potential collaborators, and hearing about new research plans. There is so much talent and expertise here, and I’m delighted to find that interest in working with or for Microsoft Research is high on the agenda of these gifted software engineers. But in the quiet before the conference begins, I am going out into the already warm day of the Indian summer to enjoy the lush greenery and think about Cybercity and what it means—a world of possibilities in software engineering.

    Judith Bishop, Director of Computer Science, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Asian students shine during the International Women’s Hackathon

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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:

    1. To connect women from universities across the world
    2. To build tools to help NGOs make an impact for women
    3. To be part of a movement that encourages and cultivates innovative women globally
    4. To gain international visibility
    5. To help women learn programming and gain experience in designing user-friendly applications

    International Women’s Hackathon in Korea
    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)
    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
    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
    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

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