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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

    Internships: Opening the Door to the Future


    Yusuke Sugano's enthusiasm for technology inspired him to earn a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Tokyo earlier this year, but his internships with Microsoft Research Asia were what fostered his passion for the value of collaborative relationships. 

    In March 2008, Sugano successfully completed an internship in Beijing. He then was accepted into the Microsoft Research Worldwide Internship Program, and in April 2010, he arrived at Microsoft's corporate headquarters in Redmond to work on a computer-vision project. While Sugano confirms that his technical knowledge benefited from both experiences, he says the more important lessons he has learned came from the collegial relationships he enjoyed at Microsoft Research.

    From the beginning of the internship-application process, it became apparent that relationships would play an important role in Sugano's Microsoft Research experience.

    "My focus has been on computer interaction and computer vision, both disciplines in which Microsoft Research is famous because the research is very good," he says. "But what really got me interested in the internship was meeting Yasuyuki Matsushita, lead researcher with Microsoft Research Asia, who encouraged me to apply."

    For his internship in the United States, Sugano was mentored by Zhengyou Zhang, principal researcher at Microsoft Research Redmond. Zhang, among many other peers, has shown genuine interest in Sugano that he believes has enhanced his technical development and been of great benefit to his career path.

    "I interact with professional researchers on a daily basis, and the interactions are very frank, honest, and productive," Sugano says. "The people I've met during both internships have set very high goals for their careers. As a result of meeting, working with, and learning from so many highly motivated people, I have become more motivated."

    Since beginning his U.S. internship in early April, Sugano has worked with the Communication and Collaboration Systems group on a project focused on facial images.

    "This would be very useful for a human interface that could be used in scenarios such as gaming and video conferencing," he says.

    The prospect of correctly aligning faces in videos or photographs is engaging, Sugano says, but also challenging.

    There are differences, of course, between Sugano's experiences in Asia and the United States, the most striking of which is the formality of communication in Japan compared with the more casual style employed in America. But the differences are far outweighed by the similarities.

    "Microsoft Research is global, so there's a consistency between the U.S. and Asia in terms of the work environment," he says. "Even though they're in different countries on different continents, the work experience is quite similar."

    Sugano plans to implement the knowledge he has acquired during his internships when he returns to Japan. There, he will embark on as many as four years of postdoctoral research that he hopes will provide contributions to the evolution of computer-vision technology. He says he is well-prepared for a research career as a result of his Microsoft Research internships.

    "Before I went to Microsoft Research Asia," Sugano says, "I didn't think about going abroad, but as a result of my experience in China and the U.S., I have a very positive outlook on working overseas."

    Microsoft Research offers many internship opportunities at research facilities around the world. While the majority of those interns are Ph.D. students in computer science, in related technical majors, or in social sciences with a technical focus, Microsoft Research accepts a small group of outstanding students with a proven research focus who are master's or bachelor's candidates. To learn more, please read the Microsoft Research Internship FAQ.

    - Steve Yamashiro, University Relations, Microsoft Research Asia

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Computing Research Association Gathering Informs, Inspires


    In even-numbered years, North America's Computing Research Association (CRA) gathers computer-science department heads, deans, provosts, and major computer-science funding agencies at the Snowbird Resort and Conference Center in the Wasatch Mountains, not far from Salt Lake City. Hot on the heels of Microsoft Research's Faculty Summit, the Snowbird Conference occurred July 18-20. The insight shared during sessions on statistics, trends, and the best ways to communicate computer science is applicable to the field as a whole, as were other ideas addressed in sessions held during the conference, including:

    - A Call to Action: Peter Harsha, who represents CRA in Washington, D.C., led a session providing an inside view of how the legislative process can affect the funding of computer-science research. He also explained the role the Computer Research Advocacy Network plays in ensuring that elected officials receive targeted, timely communications.

    - Understanding the Ranking of Graduate Programs: Charlotte Kuh of the National Research Council gave a progress report on a survey to update the 1995 database of Ph.D. rankings. The session chair, Jim Kurose of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, outlined the impact the CRA had in ensuring that its data included conference papers and citations in the computer-science field. Read the full story.

    - Computer Games: Michael Mateas of the University of California, Santa Cruz made a case for graduate research in game design and development, presenting an array of research areas important to the industry, including artificial intelligence, procedural generation, and interactive narratives. Donald Brinkman of Microsoft Research External Research presented educational game-related activities such as Kodu and the game-themed programming approach, outlining Microsoft's near-term plans to drive next-generation educational games.

    - Social Good: Lakshminarayanan Subramanian of New York University led a discussion on the potential computer-science departments have to promote social advancements through global initiatives. Examples included high-speed, point-to-point, solar-powered Wi-Fi and the use of technology to detect counterfeit currency, prescriptions, and other documents.

    - Basic Computing Knowledge: Andy van Dam from Brown University presented the findings from the CRA Education Committee on trends critical to the future of computer science, including diversity, pipeline issues, and general apathy toward the field of computer science. The report, two years in the making, details best practices to introduce students to computational thinking, to address computer-science curricula, and to identify and develop cognitive, mastery, and research skills.

    - Communicating Computer Science, The Hot Under the Cool: Chaired by Judith Bishop, director of Computer Science within Microsoft Research External Research, this session explored how to communicate innovation in computer science to a world already overwhelmed by technical advancements. Other participants in the session included Shyno Chacko Pandeya from the New Image of Computing Initiative, which uses the Dot Diva brand to attract middle-school girls; Virginia Gold from the Association for Computing Machinery, who provided insight into the marketing aspects of the first Computer Science Education Week campaign; and Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University, who introduced his new book Networks, Crowds and Markets, co-written with Cornell colleague David Easley, which is aimed at large classes from all fields of study.

    Microsoft Research is a full member of the CRA and the conference. Rico Malvar, managing director of Microsoft Research Redmond, provided a new insight into the work of the association in promoting the interests of the members of the computing research community.

    The conference was a tremendous opportunity to help support advancement of the CRA strategy and agenda, as well as network with computer-science thought leaders in North America.

    Daron Green, general manager, External Research, a division of Microsoft Research

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Web N-gram Services: Expanded Availability, New API


    During the Association for Computing Machinery's 33rd annual SIGIR Conference, on July 19-23, 2010 in Geneva, Microsoft Research is announcing enhancements to the Microsoft Web N-gram Services, available free via a cloud-based platform. Microsoft Research created Microsoft Web N-gram Services to help drive discovery and innovation by enabling scientists to conduct research on real-world, web data. Microsoft Web N-gram Services support many research areas that have the potential to change lives, including natural language processing and empowering people to take advantage of the vast amounts of information available on the Internet via new web search capabilities.

    Introduced late last year, in partnership with Bing, the Microsoft Web N-gram Services public beta now is being extended beyond professors at accredited universities to include all researchers worldwide, provided they are using the service for non-commercial purposes. The service now also includes a predictive API in support of query-language models. By opening the service up to more researchers and making these important service enhancements, Microsoft Web N-gram Services will expand not only its audience, but also access to high-quality feedback

    In the video below, Kuansan Wang, principal researcher at Microsoft Research Redmond, offers a more detailed explanation of Microsoft Web N-gram Services. Wang works with a team focused on developing technologies that provide a better understanding of human languages.

    Professional gatherings such as the Web N-gram workshop during SIGIR 2010 serve as another important channel for using real-world expertise to enhance ongoing development of Microsoft Web N-gram Services. Research papers, selected by an international program committee, will be presented during the workshop and will be followed by discussions about the use of web-based data services for research. Workshops and other gatherings have been critical to the development of Microsoft Web N-gram Services from the beginning.  After the expansion of beta availability announced during the International World Wide Web Conference in April 2010, for example, many researchers took advantage of the opportunity to work with the services. One such researcher, Li Ding of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has his work on multiword tag clouds featured in this demo.  

    In addition to presentations, the workshop will include a panel discussion on issues related to query representation, including a rigorous definition of the task, modeling for the task, challenges and opportunities, implications for industrial research, and future research directions.

    If you are attending SIGIR 2010, I cordially invite you to attend the workshop, at 9 a.m. July 23 and take advantage of this opportunity to share your perspectives and connect with other researchers in the field.  To stay updated and to learn about opportunities to participate in ongoing development, please visit the Microsoft Web N-gram Services home page.

    Evelyne Viegas, senior research program manager, Microsoft External Research, a division of Microsoft Research

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