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On November 2, 2013, the spotlight shone brightly on 10 PhD candidates from nine top Asian universities as they were introduced to an appreciative crowd of 1,500 in the Grand Theatre in Hefei, China. On stage, these scholars received medals that signified their selection as the 2013 Microsoft Research Asia Fellows. Each of the new fellows beamed while shaking hands with presenters Peter Lee, corporate vice president and head of Microsoft Research, and Hsiao-Wuen Hon, a Microsoft distinguished scientist and managing director of Microsoft Research Asia.
Microsoft Research Asia 2013 fellows and advisors with Peter Lee, corporate vice president, head of Microsoft Research (back row, forth from the right); Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia (back row, third from the right); and Feng Zhao, assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, chairman of the fellowship program (back row, far left)
The award ceremony was part of the Computing in the 21st Century Conference, co-hosted by Microsoft Research Asia and the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). The fellowship program recognizes outstanding doctoral students who are studying computer science, electrical engineering, information science, or applied mathematics at Asia universities. Each winner has the opportunity to complete an internship, during which they participate in hands-on, advanced research at Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing.
Since its inception in 1999, the program has awarded 351 fellowships to applicants who have demonstrated their strong research potential through concrete achievements at an early stage of their career. In so doing, it has successfully fostered advances and collaboration in computer science research. More than 80 of the past recipients continue to perform research, including 40 who have joined Microsoft Research Asia or other groups within Microsoft. Many have become rising stars in their investigative areas.
This year’s fellowship candidates—90 in all—were recommended by department heads at 45 leading research universities and institutions in Asia. Each candidate’s credentials were thoroughly evaluated by a review committee of researchers. Then, 27 finalists visited Microsoft Research Asia, where they presented their work to a committee of senior researchers. The students gained valuable feedback from leading researchers during these onsite interviews.
The 10 winners, each of whom successfully completed three rounds of intensive reviews, are:
After their warm reception in the conference hall, the fellowship winners were treated to lunch with Joseph Sifakis, director of the Rigorous System Design Laboratory at EPFL and recipient of the A.M. Turing Award in 2007. Then, they shared research experiences with more than 80 USTC graduate students, inspiring them to be creative and focused during research.
—Lily Sun, University Relations Manager, and Xin Ma, Senior Research Program Manager, both of Microsoft Research Connections Asia
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
As any researcher knows, keeping up with scientific knowledge isn’t easy. This is especially true in the field of medical genetics, where advances in DNA sequencing technology have led to an exponential growth of genomics data. Such data hold the key to identifying disease genes and drug targets, because complex diseases inevitably stem from synergistic perturbations of pathways and other gene networks. Many of these interactions are known, but most of this knowledge resides in academic journals, the number of which has undergone its own exponential growth. It thus has become increasingly difficult for researchers to find relevant knowledge for genomic interpretation and to keep up with new genomics findings. Fortunately, help has arrived with the Literome Project.*
Literome is an automatic curation system that both extracts genomic knowledge from PubMed (one of the world’s largest repositories of medical and life science journal articles) and makes this knowledge available in the cloud, with a website to facilitate browsing, searching, and reasoning. Currently, Literome focuses on the two types of knowledge most pertinent to genomic medicine: directed genic interactions, such as pathways, and genotype-phenotype associations. Users can search for interacting genes and the nature of the interactions, as well as for diseases and drugs associated with a given gene or single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). Users can also search for indirect connections between two entities; for example, they can look to see if a gene and a disease might be linked by searching for known associations between an interacting gene and a related disease.
Literome builds on Microsoft Research natural language processing (NLP) technology, extracting information from PubMed abstracts via our Statistical Parsing and Linguistics Analysis Toolkit (SPLAT), and uses the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to store, analyze, and disseminate the information.
Scientists can use Literome in a number of ways, from exploratory browsing, to corroborating or refuting new discoveries, to programmatically integrating pathways and genotype-phenotype associations for making discoveries from genomics data. Literome is freely available for noncommercial use through an online service, or downloadable web services. It is our hope that Literome will help researchers search genomic medical findings that can lead to new understanding and treatment of genetically mediated diseases.
—Hoifung Poon, Researcher, Microsoft Research
____________________*The Literome Project is a joint project from Hoifung Poon, Chris Quirk, Charlie DeZiel, and David Heckerman of Microsoft Research.