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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

    Getting back to first principles with eScience in the Cloud workshop


    As I prepare for the upcoming eScience in the Cloud workshop, I keeping coming back to what might sound like an obvious statement—even in these times when we’re trying to tackle hugely complex issues, like understanding climate change, and we are coping with heterogeneous data in volumes not previously encountered: as with life, science always finds a way. Okay, I’m paraphrasing from Jurassic Park, but you take my meaning.

    Facing these complex issues will involve working together—multiple research disciplines collaborating across multiple institutions, across multiple sectors of business, nonprofit, and government. A tall order? Certainly—but, with cooperation and communication, one that is tractable (notice I did not say easy). I hope to see that conversation continue at this workshop.

    Further your data-intensive research

    Yes, we are coping with massive data sets and have the means to collect and share them. Processing big data takes massive compute power; fortunately, compute power grows and becomes increasingly accessible every day. Visualizing data for exploration is critical—and never have I seen more tools to visualize and explore data than of late.

    The reason I call this blog “Getting back to first principles” is that many of the topics we will discuss at the eScience in the Cloud 2014 workshop were topics also discussed at Microsoft SciData 2004, our original eScience event, held some 10 years ago.

    Sure, the stakes and the availability of tools and compute resources seem higher (don’t they always?), yet the topics and goals are much the same: how we can use technology (in this case, the cloud) to expedite scientific discoveries. This is why, when my co-chair and colleague, Dennis Gannon (formerly an academic attendee) pulled the event together, he and I reviewed feedback from previous eScience events and focused on answering these fundamental questions: how is Microsoft going to help? and what resources can we make available?

    Like SciData 2004, the upcoming event will feature not only academics discussing their solutions to compute problems in science, but also Microsoft researchers from a variety of disciplines talking about how you can use their tools to reach your objectives. Even the product teams are becoming involved. They will demonstrate how some of their new offerings—many freely available—can help researchers achieve their goals.

    I hope you will join us April 29–30, at the Microsoft Research Lab in Redmond, Washington, to find out how to further your research in the cloud-computing age. Learn more about the event and register.

    If you can arrive a day earlier, we’re holding a one-day training event that teaches how to use Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform, for research. This April 28 event is part of the Windows Azure for Research program.

    Kristin Tolle, Director of Environmental Science Infrastructure Development, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    2014 Microsoft Research Awards for SEIF announced


    Microsoft Research Awards for the Software Engineering Innovations Foundation (SEIF Awards)With the announcement of the 2014 winners of the Microsoft Research Awards for the Software Engineering Innovations Foundation (SEIF), I can’t help but reflect on the depth and breadth of research supported by Microsoft Research. Over the past few years, SEIF has not only sponsored research into core software engineering challenges but has also funded investigations into software engineering’s applications in mobile and cloud computing and natural user interface (NUI). This year was no exception to the this emphasis on depth and breadth: for 2014, SEIF invited proposals addressing core software engineering challenges as well as those that delving into the application of software engineering to the Internet of Things and large-scale cloud infrastructure. These latter two areas were explored as a partnership between Lab of Things and Global Foundation Services, respectively.

    Before I reveal the 2014 winners, let me say a bit about the diversity and quality of the proposals. We received 129 proposals, coming from nearly 30 countries and every continent (okay, except Antarctica). SEIF has truly become an internationally recognized program! Some 70 reviewers from across Microsoft conducted an internal review of the proposals, all of which were of exceedingly high quality. It was extremely difficult to choose the 12 winning projects, each of which will receive funding of US$40,000.

    Here, then, are the 2014 recipients of this Microsoft Research Award:

    • Linking Constructive and Analytical Software Verification
      Michael Butler, University of Southampton
    • Script Synthesis through Examples
      Ruzica Piskac, Yale University
    • Dependency Aware Sharing of the Internet of Things for Integrating Apps in Smart Homes
      Jack Stankovic, University of Virginia
    • Teaching Software Engineering to the Masses with TouchDevelop
      Alessandro Orso, Georgia Institute of Technology
    • Improving Datacenter Efficiency and Total Cost of Ownership with Differentiated Software Reliability Analysis and Techniques
      Onur Mutlu, Carnegie Mellon University
    • Resource Efficient Cloud Computing
      Christoforos Kozyrakis, Stanford University
    • Augmenting Testing with Performance-Aware Behavioral Models
      Yuriy Brun, University of Massachusetts Amherst
    • Kinect-based Training to Improve Balance, Mobility, and Quality of Life in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease
      Jeffrey Haddad, Purdue University
    • A Spreadsheet Model for End-User Programming with Probabilistic Data
      Scott Hudson, Carnegie Mellon University
    • Systematic Analysis of User Reviews and Usage Data for Windows Mobile Apps
      Walid Maalej, University of Hamburg
    • CoolProvision: Provisioning of Cooling Systems for Datacenters
      Thu Nguyen, Rutgers University
    • Reliable and Resilient Microgrids for Data Centers
      Reinaldo Tonkoski and Wei Sun,
      South Dakota State University

    Congratulations to the 2014 winners of this Microsoft Research Award! See the winners on the SEIF page.

    Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Partnerships propel computer science


    As part of its commitment to basic research, Microsoft invests in creating joint research centers around the world. These collaborative engagements typically involve multi-year research programs across a broad range of projects that push the boundaries of computer science. In the last week, Microsoft Research both launched and renewed major partnerships in Spain, Russia, and France.

    Joint Research Centers forged in Spain, Russia, and France

    On April 2, we announced the launch of the Madrid Joint Research Center, a collaborative venture between Microsoft Research and the IMDEA Software Institute. The center’s inaugural workshop brought together researchers from both partners and focused on advances in verification, programming languages, and security.

    On April 7, it was with great pleasure that I participated in the kick-off workshop for the newly launched Microsoft Research and Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) Joint Research Center. This partnership will run three years and cover research in such areas as big data processing/visualization and computer vision, and will offer major research events for students.

    Kick-off workshop for the newly launched Microsoft Research and Lomonosov MSU Joint Research Center
    Kick-off workshop for the newly launched Microsoft Research and Lomonosov MSU Joint Research Center

    The roots of this collaboration go back almost 20 years, when an agreement was signed between Microsoft and MSU’s Faculty of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics. Since then, more than 10,000 undergrads, graduate students, and young researchers from Russia have participated in joint projects and events organized by Microsoft Research and MSU. We’re delighted to deepen our partnership with an academic institution that recognizes the importance of IT in science—in particular in two important research areas: computer vision and big data visualization. In terms of computer vision, we are now able to extract deeper information and understanding from images and video recordings, such that video sequences, CCTV camera footage, and 3D images can be used to produce contextual information and data. In the field of big data visualization, Microsoft and MSU have collaborated on projects such as ChronoZoom, FetchClimate, and Distribution Modeller, which accumulate and analyze tremendous amounts of information from various areas of knowledge.

    As Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research said, “By building an ecosystem of scientific research in the IT area in Russia, we are involving young and talented scientists from Russia to join their efforts with the experience of leading Microsoft Research scientists. We are very happy to collaborate with MSU's young scientists.”

    Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research Outreach, and Victor Sadovnichii, rector of Moscow State University
    Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research, and Victor Sadovnichy, rector of Moscow State University

    Finally, we had our third announcement today. Andrew Blake, laboratory director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, attended the public announcement of the renewal of the Microsoft Research–Inria Joint Centre. Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, senior research program manager from Microsoft Research Cambridge and management board member of the Joint Centre, provides more information about the importance of this renewal below.

    As you can see, it has been a big week for Microsoft Research and our commitment to collaborate with some of the world’s leading research institutes.

    —Daron Green, Senior Director, Microsoft Research


    Laurent Massoulié, managing director of the Inria Joint CentreAs Daron’s part of this post makes clear, Microsoft Research has a rich, ongoing history of collaborating with leading academic and institutional partners as we strive to use computer science to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. We have had a particularly productive partnership with Inria (the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation).

    In 2006, Microsoft Research and Inria took their already close relationship a step further, by founding a joint research laboratory just south of Paris. In the intervening years, the Microsoft Research-Inria Joint Centre has been a constant source of investigative excellence, renowned for applying computer science and mathematics to a broad spectrum of scientific challenges, from formal methods for mathematics, distributed systems and security, to computer vision and medical imaging, to machine learning and big data, and to social networks and privacy. The results of the Centre’s research are public and thus freely available to the international scientific community.

    Now we are pleased to announce the renewal of this fruitful partnership, which will keep the Microsoft Research-Inria Joint Centre funded through 2017. From his quote below, it's clear that Andrew Blake sees exceptional value in continuing the partnership:

    In renewing the Joint Research Centre, we will continue to strengthen the international standing of European computer science and make significant breakthroughs that impact Microsoft, the field of computer science and society. Microsoft’s collaboration with Inria in generating a formal proof of the Feit-Thompson theorem is a great example of exceptional scientific innovation that also strengthens technology more broadly.

    Laurent Massoulié, with his extensive experience both of academia and industry, is an ideal Director for the partnership. He has already extended our collaboration with a number of new and important challenges, including machine learning and social networking, achieving a balance in the Centre between deep science and engineering, and high social impact.

    In this era of big data and even bigger problems, such collaboration, which brings together outstanding researchers from the academic and commercial worlds, can play a pivotal role in the application of computer science and mathematics to the sciences. We are proud of our continued association with Inria and look forward to four more years of world-class teamwork.

    Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research-EMEA

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