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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

    Top student research recognized at ACM banquet

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    Students dream of attending major conferences, where they can present their work and interact with top researchers. For many, however, this dream remains just that, as funds for student attendance are in short supply. Microsoft Research receives many requests to fund conferences each year, and organizers continually tell us that their most pressing need is funding for student travel. We recognize that students are the next generation, ensuring the ongoing vitality of computer science and providing energy and new ideas.

    Students present their poster to experts at the SC14 conference.
    Students present their poster to experts at the SC14 conference.

    Recognizing the value of student participation, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) started a program in 2003 for student travel. The ACM Student Research Competition (SRC), sponsored by Microsoft Research, offers a unique forum for undergraduate and graduate students to present their original research before a panel of judges and attendees at well-known ACM-sponsored and co-sponsored conferences. The competition takes place at 26 participating conferences, including SuperComputing, CHI, SIGGRAPH, ICSE and the Grace Hopper Celebration, and it sponsors more than 200 students.

    Much more than just a travel funding program, the ACM SRC provides participants a chance to meet other students and to get direct feedback on their work from experts. Let’s hear it from the students themselves:

    Tharindu Rusira“ACM SRC was a premier opportunity to showcase our research to an audience of expert researchers. It is not only about science and research but about communication and presentation skills. It is an all-round experience that a student researcher should not miss.”

    —Tharindu Rusira, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka (CGO 2015)

    Snigdha Chaturvedi“Participating in SRC was a wonderful experience. It gave me an opportunity to interact and present my work to a broad and diverse audience not limited to my research field. It was fun!”

    —Snigdha Chaturvedi, University of Maryland (Grace Hopper Celebration 2014)

    Matthew Loring“The SRC was a very valuable and enjoyable experience. The insights I gained from judges and other attendees broadened my understanding of how the problems I worked on fit into the broader picture of the programming languages community. ”

    —Matthew Loring, Cornell University (PLDI 2014)

    Kyoungwon Seo“Presenting my research in the presence of other students and leading researchers was extraordinary. It gave me a perfect opportunity to practice pitching and defending my own research outcomes. Most of all, time with other students was really amazing!”

    —Kyoungwon Seo, Hanyang University, Korea (CHI 2014)

    2015 ACM Student Research Competition finalists with ACM President Alex Wolf, Director of Microsoft Research Outreach P. Anandan and ACM CEO John White
    2015 ACM Student Research Competition finalists with ACM President Alex Wolf, Director of Microsoft Research Outreach P. Anandan and ACM CEO John White

    This year’s banquet took place on Saturday June 20 in San Francisco. The six finalists are listed below, with links to their winning papers:

    Graduate category

    Undergraduate category

    The judges had a hard time ranking these papers, as all were of excellent quality. Moreover, many of them had special significance to us. For example, Lu Xiao’s paper, "Detecting and Preventing the Architectural Roots of Bugs," treats a topic much on the minds of people at a company like Microsoft. Likewise, Shannon Lubetich’s paper, "Eve Eat Dust Mop: Measuring Syntactic Development in Child Language with Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning," centered on machine—and childhood—learning, areas of intense interest to researchers both in academia and industry.

    We congratulate the winning students who have achieved much in getting to the top of the competition. We also thank the organizers and judges, who make the experience so worthwhile each year. We are proud to be associated with this program, which changes the lives of so many.

    Judith Bishop, Director of Computer Science, Microsoft Research; Laurie Williams, Professor and Acting Department Head, North Carolina State University Department of Computer Science

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Announcing the Microsoft Academic Graph: Let the research begin!

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    The published research generated by the global research community constitutes a diary of humankind’s scientific achievements. As this output grows year after year, it creates new opportunities for further inquiry—and new challenges in dealing with the volume and complexity of the information. As a result, scholarly big data has been the focus of a growing number of recent research workshops, such as:

    For our part, Microsoft Research announced last summer that Microsoft Academic Search was evolving from a research project into full-scale production powered by Bing (see Making Cortana the Researcher’s Dream Assistant). In addition to integrating scholarly publications directly into Bing search results and Cortana’s notification system, we are taking full advantage of Bing’s capacity to crawl the web and generate structured information from unstructured text. Our Academic Graph of research publications, authors, journals, conferences, universities and fields of study has grown significantly, more than doubling the number of publication records of the previous iteration and offering nearly three times the number of citations between publications.

    While our graph continues to grow, today we are announcing the release of a snapshot of this graph for the research community, in an effort to jumpstart new avenues of research at web scale. The Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG) can be used immediately. The data is stored as a set of text files, one for each entity in the graph, and one for each relationship type between the entities (paper-paper citations, author-paper, paper-topic and so forth).

    Professor Jevin West, of the University of Washington’s Information School, calls the MAG a game changer. “There has never been a release of bibliographic data at this scale,” he says. “It will allow researchers to study the structure of scientific knowledge, build better algorithms for mapping the ever-expanding corpus and improving information retrieval. I have been waiting for news like this for years. Let the research begin!”    

    You can download the MAG data directly from Microsoft Azure, or you can mount it from Azure blob storage directly into your own Azure virtual machine. Due to the size of the data, researchers may find it advantageous to use Microsoft’s scalable cloud infrastructure, and to this end, we are encouraging researchers to also apply for an Azure for Research award to support their research efforts. Simply include #academicgraph in your award submission—the next deadline is August 15, 2015.

    As Professor West says, let the research begin!

    Alex Wade, Director of Scholarly Communications, Microsoft Research

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Innovation from the ground up and into the cloud

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    Standing atop the tallest educational edifice in the world—the 240-meter (787-foot) tower of Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU)—really makes you think about the impact of education and research. This is home to some of the brightest minds in the world, including 11 Nobel Prize and six Field Medal winners. So it’s no surprise that we created the Microsoft Research–Lomonosov MSU Joint Research Center in May 2014, to build on our years of close collaboration. To celebrate the center’s first anniversary, Microsoft Research sponsored two research workshops at MSU.

    Azure for Research on display at first anniversary of joint research center
    Lomonosov Moscow State University
    (photo courtesy of Sergey Norin under
    Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

    Cloud computing for research

    The first event, on May 19, focused on showing researchers how to take advantage of cloud computing in virtually every domain. I described many amazing Microsoft Azure for Research projects (see my slides), before we heard from Sergey Bartunov of MSU, who explained how Azure enabled him to train his advanced machine learning model (see his slides). "I first ran the algorithm on my laptop, but after three days of computing, I found it fried,” he said. “At some point you just cannot do everything on your laptop—you either have a powerful enough server at hand or you go to the cloud. On Azure's powerful D14 machine, I could run our algorithm on the whole English Wikipedia and get the results in 16 hours. On my laptop, it would take about six days."

    Ivan Klimov, director of the Center for the Study of New Media and Society (CNMS), discussed how his team can now study VK, Europe’s largest social network, by using the scale and power of Azure. Sergey Berezin, who leads the computational science tools effort at the Microsoft Research–Lomonosov MSU Joint Research Center, detailed how he is collaborating with Microsoft Research to bring new tools, such as Biomodel Analyzer and FetchClimate, to fruition.

    During the workshop, we launched our Azure for Research Russia Initiative for Russian researchers who want more power and storage than their desktop computers can provide for running simulations, doing data science, developing the Internet of Things and taking advantage of our open and flexible Azure Machine Learning service.

    Research tips for graduate students

    Amidst all the intellectual horsepower at MSU, it can be easy to forget that most research careers—even those of Nobel laureates—start in graduate school. These early years can be daunting, so with this in mind we offered the Microsoft Research–Moscow State University Graduate Workshop 2015, held on May 20, designed to help graduate research students expand their thinking and increase the impact of their work.

    Drew Purves from Microsoft Research Cambridge (UK) opened by describing how he went from being a teenager hooked on Conway’s Game of Life to a researcher who has created the world’s first truly global Game of Life: the Madingley Model, which includes every organism on Earth. MSU-alumnus Konstantin Makarychev of the Theory Group at Microsoft Research Redmond was delighted to be back at his alma mater, where he provided tips and tricks on writing better research papers. I wrapped up the morning with a talk on how to give a good talk, which is always a daunting prospect!

     Drew Purves and Konstantin Makarychev share their experiences with the graduate students. (photos courtesy of Elena Pavlova and Alexander Popovkin)
    Drew Purves (left) and Konstantin Makarychev (right) share their experiences with the graduate students. (photos courtesy of Elena Pavlova and Alexander Popovkin)

    During the afternoon, we took the attendees outside of their comfort zone, working in teams to apply what they had learned from the morning sessions. They did a fantastic job of giving a three-minute pitch of research proposals, coming up with big ideas such as science-as-a-service in the cloud and revolutionary video streaming.

    The close of the workshop marked the end of our two-day celebration of the joint research center’s first anniversary, but everyone agreed that it was just the beginning of what promises to be a long and fruitful collaboration between Microsoft Research and some of the brightest minds in Russia. We can’t wait to see what researchers propose to do with Microsoft Azure, and we look forward to receiving many proposals before our deadline of August 15, 2015.

    Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect and Technical Manager, Microsoft Research

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