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The past decade has witnessed an incredible boom in Chinese academic research—a boom fueled in large measure by talented young researchers. Over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of supporting the Joint PhD Program, in which Microsoft Research Asia collaborates with leading Chinese universities to discover and foster outstanding research talent. From 1998 to 2013, more than 150 Chinese students have participated in this program.
Some of the young researchers who gathered for the first Microsoft Research Asia PhD Forum
“How about hosting a forum to get all these young talents together and provide them an opportunity to inspire each other?” I felt quite excited when this idea came up during a Joint PhD Program committee meeting. After a month of preparation, the first Microsoft Research Asia PhD Forum was held on December 12, 2013. It was a rousing success, bringing together not only the program’s PhD students but also more than 60 additional doctoral students from Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beihang University, and the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This PhD forum provided a platform for direct communication among top doctoral students. As one participant observed, it gave the young researchers a unique opportunity “to exchange ideas with fellows who have similar research experiences, which is very helpful and distinctive.” In addition to this overall sense of camaraderie and mutual inspiration, the forum featured many impressive sessions. Yu Zheng, a lead researcher at Microsoft Research Asia and a renowned expert on the burgeoning field of urban computing, gave an opening keynote that discussed how city problems could be addressed by using big data. This speech, from a researcher who was named one of world’s top innovators under 35 by MIT Technology Review, was an inspirational event, and many students clearly viewed Dr. Zheng as a role model. Xiaohui Wang, a PhD student from Tsinghua University, told us with enthusiasm, “I was inspired by Yu Zheng’s talk. It was great to learn how top researchers at Microsoft Research Asia have advanced their research progress.”
Zhen Cui, left, and Dong Chen discussed their work on face recognition during the oral session.
During the oral session, 12 PhD students shared their published research findings. Particularly notable was the dialogue between Dong Chen, a Microsoft Research Asia Joint-PhD student, and Zhen Cui, a PhD candidate from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They focused on face recognition, and both of their papers had been accepted by 2013 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. “Dong’s work on face verification is amazing. I am very happy and honored to attend this forum with such excellent peers, and I’ve benefited greatly from my interactions here with Dong and other students,” said Zhen Cui.
During the forum, 16 PhD students presented their work with posters and demos. Pictured here are the two students who were awarded the Best Poster Prize.
During the panel session, four participants engaged in a spirited talk on how to achieve a better PhD career. They made me think about my own professional life, so interesting and meaningful were their observations. Their discussion on relationships with mentors impressed me the most. “Mentors are quite different from each other. As a PhD student, it is quite important to know your mentor’s style first, and then by working together with him, you will grow and be independent in research work,” said Shiguang Shan, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
A capacity crowd listened raptly during the panel discussion, How to Achieve a Better PhD Career.
As I reflect on the academic achievements and innovative spirit of these young students, I feel extremely satisfied and honored to have organized this forum. Although it lasted only one day, I believe the forum will be meaningful in the development of these promising young researchers. With the rapid development of Chinese research activities, I am convinced that the full potential of young talent is yet to be discovered. I sincerely hope that next year, more students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China will join us, and that the graduates of the Joint PhD Program will continue to make significant contributions to research.—Guobin Wu, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections AsiaLearn more
Almost a year ago, I moved to Bend, a town in the Cascade Mountains of central Oregon. This former timber town (it was once home to two of the world’s largest pine mills) has reinvented itself as an outdoor recreation mecca and, according to Entrepreneur Magazine, the most entrepreneurial city in the United States. Today, Bend has more than 40 technology companies and one the highest densities of startups per capita in the nation. For me, Bend offers the perfect mix of business and pleasure. I can hike, mountain bike, and ski to my heart’s content, and when duty calls, I’m only a 40-minute flight away from Seattle and Microsoft Research Redmond, and—more importantly—Bend’s broadband infrastructure allows me to connect to university and research centers throughout the world. What’s more, living in Bend has given me the opportunity to help build and shape the new computer science department at OSU-Cascades, a branch campus of Oregon State University. Having a community so diverse—with a traditional tourism industry and a new economy of startup technology companies—presents interesting opportunities. Having been actively involved with the Seattle-area’s TEDxSouthLakeUnionWomen last year, I naturally joined the TEDxBend community and quickly began investigating how to organize a salon series for my new team. A salon is a weekly, monthly, or quarterly event that keeps the community engaged in between larger TED events. I want to involve the creative, innovative Bend community, especially its women, in harnessing the passion of TEDx—not just to share great ideas but also to turn them into reality, by challenging people to confront and solve hard problems. I believe women are change agents: inventors and idea champions who can empower our community. During the first TEDxBendSalon, scheduled for January 29, 2014, our theme will be community empowerment. We’ll discuss how generations of women are transforming lives as well as entire communities in both the developing world and the developed world. We will stream previous TEDx talks that are relevant to community empowerment, and we’ll have four fantastic speakers focused on empowering women, veterans, entrepreneurs, and the community. My fellow Microsoft researcher, Jessa Lingel, will be one of the speakers.Given the importance of nurturing the next generation, 25 percent of the attendees will be students from Central Oregon Community College (COCC) and OSU-Cascades. I want to introduce these students to the opportunities and leaders in their community. I’m especially eager for them to see women who are making a difference, and to show them the possibilities in their own backyard for using technology to change the world. I’m most excited about the idea-generation session, where first we will break into small groups to discuss challenges in central Oregon and how we can solve them, and then we will form teams and set a course of action for the year. Two of our 12 group leaders are students from OSU-Cascades and COCC. As the organizer of the salon, I will not be able to speak, but I will be leading a discussion group to ensure that one of our challenge areas focuses on how to increase the involvement of women in computing in central Oregon. I hope these ideas will come to fruition and that we’ll be able to share our success stories at TEDxBendWomen in December 2014. Our salon event sold out in five days, so it is too late to register, but please contact me if you would like to attend our next salon, which is slated for some time in July or August.—Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections Learn more
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The aftermath of a stroke can be overwhelming for any patient—from the physical and emotional toll to the cost of stroke-related treatment. Recent evidence1 points to the advantages of task-specific training as effective rehabilitation, but in practice, this requires simple, repetitive movements, which may bore patients, lowering their motivation to continue the training. However, new hope for stroke patients has arrived in the form of Stroke Recovery with Kinect, a research project to build a cost-effective, interactive, home-rehabilitation system for motor recovery after a stroke—based on Microsoft Kinect technology.
Stroke Recovery with Kinect is a collaborative project between Microsoft Research Asia and Seoul National University—with funding from the Korean Government Collaboration Program—that provides a virtual reality system to help stroke survivors improve their upper-limb motor functioning in the comfort of their own home. “Most people who suffer a stroke experience paralysis in their arms and legs,” states Professor Nam-Jong Paik of Seoul National University, who is principal investigator of the project. “They can do the therapy at home by using Microsoft’s Kinect—without coming to the hospital—and we can measure their recovery level. Since it’s like a game, patients also have fun while rehabilitating at home.”The prototype Stroke Recovery with Kinect system was built by using the Microsoft Kinect for Windows software development kit (SDK). It uses the Kinect sensor’s three-dimensional camera to capture the movements of 48 skeletal points on the patient while he or she performs the therapy. Stroke Recovery with Kinect interprets the movement data, enabling the system to measure and evaluate the patient’s movements and assess their rehabilitation progress. The system uses the patient's scores from previous sessions to adjust the level of difficulty for subsequent therapy sessions. One of the three programs in the Stroke Recovery with Kinect system is the classic box-and-block test (BBT). This program application evaluates patients’ coordination, gross manual dexterity, and motor skills as they (virtually) attempt to pick up blocks one-by-one and put them into a box in a set amount of time. Similar to a computer game, Stroke Recovery with Kinect displays patients’ scores as soon as they finish a session, providing immediate reinforcement when scores improve from session to session.
The box-and-block test in Stroke Recovery with Kinect evaluates a patient’s coordination, manual dexterity, and motor skills.
Another program in Stroke Recovery with Kinect challenges the patient to assume a target pose displayed on the computer monitor and then duplicate the target’s position as it moves. The patient then receives what is known as a Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) score, based on his or her success. Because Stroke Recovery with Kinect enables patients to face these challenges within the privacy of their own homes, they may be more relaxed and likely to persevere.The third program in Stroke Recovery with Kinect is an outer-space game that enables patients to exercise their reflex and reaction abilities as they guide a spaceship through space while attempting to avoid oncoming asteroids. Stroke Recovery with Kinect tracks the stroke patient’s hand trajectory—relative to and in conjunction with the movement of the elbow and/or shoulder. The stroke patient experiences a fun and enjoyable therapy session that a traditional rehabilitative setting usually cannot provide.
Long-term plans for Stroke Recovery with Kinect include integrating social networking into the system so that stroke patients can connect with one another and participate jointly in the rehabilitative programs, building a sense of camaraderie that could offer emotional and psychological support and motivation. Within the community, patients will have the opportunity to communicate about their condition and receive encouragement as they advance toward recovery. Future updates will make it possible for doctors to monitor the patient’s rehabilitation from the hospital or their office, and to communicate with the patient regarding their treatment and progress. Additionally, as the system becomes more widely used, we anticipate incorporating machine learning into the system. Finally, this home-based rehabilitation system also has potential cost benefits. The expense of ongoing stroke-related office visits for rehabilitation burdens healthcare systems and patients worldwide. I look forward to future collaborative efforts between Microsoft Research Asia and Seoul National University on the Stroke Recovery with Kinect project. We expect Stroke Recovery with Kinect to pave the way for stroke patients to save both time and money through a convenient, effective, and enjoyable rehabilitation program. —Miran Lee, Senior Manager, Microsoft Research ConnectionsLearn more
_______________1Kleim JA, Jones TA: "Principles of experience-dependent neural plasticity: implication for rehabilitation after brain damage," J Speech Lang Hear Res 2008, 51:225-39.
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