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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

    The Imagine Cup 2011 Winners Are…

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    The Imagine Cup 2011 winners are revealed!The Imagine Cup 2011 winners are revealed! The winning projects hail from Bangladesh, Brazil, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Korea, Poland, Romania, and Taiwan. At the awards ceremony, Microsoft announced a new US$3 million grant program to help recipients realize their vision.

    Congratulations to all the winners and every participant in this amazing competition! For more information, read the Research at Imagine Cup 2011 blog.

    —Stewart Tansley, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections, and Jim Pinkelman, Senior Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Research at Imagine Cup 2011

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    In nine years, the Imagine Cup has become one of the pre-eminent youth technology competitions in the world. This year, more than 350,000 young people from 183 countries and regions around the globe signed up to compete.

    Beginning last Friday evening and running through to Wednesday this week, more than 400 of the brightest young minds from more than 70 countries will be competing in the finals hosted in New York City, United States. These are the winners from all of the local, national, and regional competitions around the world over this past year.

    The students develop solutions for an enormous range of socially-relevant applications, including environmental issues, medical diagnosis, disaster relief, and technology access for the disabled. They mix and match Microsoft and other technologies to reach those solutions.

    More than 350,000 young people from 183 countries and regions around the globe signed up to compete in Imagine Cup 2011.

    Imagine Cup 2011 Video: Students Create a Better World Video 

    Microsoft Research has long been a collaborator with the event and this year is no exception. Notable this year has been the prominence of the Kinect for Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) beta, released less than a month ago. In common with so many enthusiasts around the world, the amazing Microsoft Kinect sensor and its powerful software, now officially available to developers on Windows 7 PCs with the SDK, has captured the imaginations of many of the student teams, some of which have already been using the SDK in their projects—an extraordinary effort in so short a time.

    In response to this enormous interest, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who opened the event with a keynote presentation, announced that all of the student finalists would receive Kinects as gifts to help inspire further innovation in natural user interfaces and beyond!

    To further help the students understand the capabilities of the device and its SDK, including access to the raw data streams, and the audio and visual processing (which includes skeletal tracking), Stewart Tansley presented a training class with Clint Rutkas from Channel 9’s Coding4Fun. The class generated a lot of interest from the students—who were eager to learn more about the Kinect for Windows SDK beta.

    Representing the culmination of decades of computer science research in audio and vision processing, the prominence of Kinect and the SDK at the event has been an inspiring testament to the practical influence of research on today’s emerging computer scientists.

    Furthering this message, Microsoft Research Connections corporate vice president Tony Hey presented a special session to the students entitled, “What it takes to be a researcher.”

    Tony recalled that Albert Einstein once said, “If we knew what we were doing it wouldn’t be research.” Tony addressed specifically those students who are considering graduate school and the potential rewards of a research career, but are unsure about the specific paths and options that are available to them. He shared from his extensive experience as a researcher and academic both in the United Kingdom and United States.

    Panel at the Women Innovators

    Panel at the Women Innovators (not in order): Jane Prey, senior program manager,
    Microsoft Research Connections; Earl Newsome, vice president Global Shared
    Services, Estée Lauder; Her Excellency, Meryl Frank, former ambassador and
    deputy U.S. representative to the Commission on the Status of Women (appointed
    by Barack Obama); Zainab Al-Suwaij, president of the American Islamic Congress;
    and Dr. Mary Fernandez, executive director of Dependable Distributed Computing
    Research at AT&T Labs.

    Last but not least, Jane Prey represented Microsoft Research on a stellar panel at the Women Innovators dinner. The other panelists included: Earl Newsome, vice president Global Shared Services, Estée Lauder; Her Excellency, Meryl Frank, former ambassador and deputy U.S. representative to the Commission on the Status of Women (appointed by Barack Obama); Zainab Al-Suwaij, president of the American Islamic Congress; and Dr. Mary Fernandez, executive director of Dependable Distributed Computing Research at AT&T Labs. The panel focused on how to help get more women involved in technology and encouraging the student women innovators attending to continue on their technical initiatives. Learn more about this special highlight.

    As we write this blog the day before the final winners of Imagine Cup 2011 are to be announced, we wish all competitors the best of luck for the competition and in their future careers, whether as researchers, entrepreneurs, or other champions of computer science!

    —Stewart Tansley, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections, and Jim Pinkelman, Senior Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Top Students Descend on Microsoft Research Cambridge

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    With the academic year drawing to a close, Microsoft Research Cambridge was delighted to welcome more than 60 doctoral students for the sixth PhD Summer School at the end of June 2011. Participants came from as far afield as Israel and Russia, numerous European countries, and locales across the UK. It was also a pleasure to host students from Cambridge Computer Laboratory, just across the road.


    More than 60 PhD students converge on Microsoft Research Cambridge.

    More than 60 PhD students converge on Microsoft Research Cambridge. (Volodymyr Kuznetsov, Enuo He, Sadia Ahmed, Georgios Varisteas, Varun Bhaskar Kothamachu, Hannah Smith, Andrej Mikulik, Larissa Pschetz, David Kim, Su-Yang Yu, Michal Ficek, Gian Marco Palamara, Peter Wortmann, Nicolas Mobilia, Davide Cacchiarelli, Niek Bouman, Petra Korica-Pehserl, Timothy Rudge, Dmitri Kornev, Gjata Nerta, Christine Rizkallah, Mohamed Amir Yosef, Evgeny Rodionov, Yury Tumanov, Fidaa Abed, Milovan Duric, Ivan Ratkovic, Anastasia Tugaenko, Milan Stanic, Yaniv Ben-Itzhak, Faraz Makari Manshadi, Maximilian Dylla, Sergiy Byelozyorov, Alexander Chigorin, Syama Sundar Rangapuram, Sergey Milyaev, Roman Shapovalov, Evgeny Novikov, Vladimir Kononov, Gleb Krivovyaz, Sergey Shveykin, Pavel Shved, Silke Jansen, Stepan Kuznetsov, Dmitry Laptev, Moshe Gabel, Victor Chernyshov, Ariella Voloshin, Dmitry Ivankov, Jan Margeta, Jiaxin Han, Quan Guo, Madhura Killedar, Michelle Furlong, Edoardo Tescari, Zhen Bai, Lech Swirski, Andra Adams, Steven Marsh)

    This annual event provides an opportunity for some of the brightest graduate students to come together at the Microsoft Research Cambridge lab for a week of immersive technical talks, personal development sessions, and socialising. Representing 32 universities and institutes, the participants are working on a wide range of subjects, from how to program a million-core neural computer and parallel operating systems, to cloud computing and machine learning. Although most are computer science students, others are studying subjects as diverse as Amazonian road networks and cosmology.

    An extensive range of technical talks by Microsoft researchers provided insights into the whole spectrum of work at the Cambridge lab, including research on computer science as applied philosophy, parallel software, machine learning for Kinect, social computing, medical imaging, functional programming, computational ecology, and computing to cure cancer. Moshe Gabel, a participant from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, was impressed, noting that “the Summer School really opened my eyes to the amazing range of sub-fields in computer science”.


    Christine Rizkallah, from the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Institute in Germany, explains her research over lunch to lab researchers.

    Christine Rizkallah, from the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Institute in Germany, explains her research over lunch to lab researchers.

    The lawn marquee provided an opportunity for the students to showcase their research to the dozens of Microsoft researchers who swarmed around their posters, asking probing questions and giving advice over lunch. Seventeen of our new Microsoft PhD scholars, funded through Microsoft Research Connections, had the opportunity to meet with their Microsoft co-supervisors—just one way that our programme enables close collaboration between students and Microsoft.

    A key goal of the week was to facilitate personal development, with deep-dive sessions on such topics as “How to Write a Great Research Paper and Give a Great Talk,” by Simon Peyton-Jones, and “A Rough Guide to Being an Entrepreneur,” by Jack Lang, from the Judge Business School at Cambridge University. These sessions had wide appeal; as Jiaxin Han from Durham University observed, “As a non-computer science student, I’ve also benefited a lot from general guidance on PhD study, as well as gaining a 3-D view of Microsoft”.

    The Summer School provides a fantastic opportunity for the next-generation of technology leaders to interact with the researchers at Microsoft Research Cambridge, and for Microsoft Research—and, more specifically, the Microsoft Research Connections group—to provide a window into what we do. Many of the students were impressed with the wide latitude given to Microsoft researchers. Seeing projects like Worldwide Telescope and Microsoft Academic Search made me realise that Microsoft gives its researchers some freedom in working on interesting projects that are not directly related to their mainstream products,” explained Christine Rizkallah, from the Max Planck Institute.

    For the lab, it is a source of inspiration and pride to be working with such talented young individuals, who are the future of science and computing. We’re already looking forward to next year’s PhD Summer School in Cambridge!

    Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA, and Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect and Technical Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA

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