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January, 2014

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.

January, 2014

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Community empowerment and growing more women in tech

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    Rane Johnson-Stempson, Microsoft ResearchAlmost 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[1]. 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.

    TEDxBend, an independently organized TED eventI 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

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Cloud-computing training for researchers marches on

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    Last September, as part of our global Windows Azure for Research program, we announced our cloud training classes that we designed to show academics how Windows Azure can accelerate their research. Now that we’re almost a month into the new year, we would like to let you know what we have planned for 2014—including some new resources that you can use and share with your colleagues and contacts.

    New class locations, downloadable course materials, and webcasts for Windows Azure for Research training

    First, I’m pleased to say that you can now download the full course materials for your personal or institutional use and for repurposing in your own class resources. These materials, which are the exact ones we use in the in-person classes, are available in source form, licensed under Apache 2.0. It is a large download—more than 200 MB—so make sure you have a good Internet connection. You can get the download from the Windows Azure for Research Training home page; look for the link on the right side of the page.

    We are also producing a complete online video version of the class, which we’ll make available as soon as possible. In addition, we’ve created a collection of specialized webinars that supplement the main course materials with deeper content. You can link to the webinar collection, which we will update over time, again through the training home page.
     
    In addition, we have refined our training schedule for 2014 and clarified its presentation by distinguishing between upcoming and past events. By the end of 2013, we had conducted the in-person class in nine cities in seven countries, training some 455 researchers from 13 countries. We have a similar number of events currently planned for the first half of 2014, and we will review the balance between live and online training once the latter becomes available.

    As a reminder, Windows Azure is an open and flexible global cloud platform that supports any language, tool, or framework, and is ideally suited to the needs of researchers across disciplines. The course is intended specifically for active scientists who are interested in coding in a modern computing context, as well as for computer scientists who are working with such researchers.

    The training outcomes of the course include:

    • Gaining an understanding of cloud computing and why and when you would use it in research
    • Acquiring hands-on experience in the major design patterns for successful cloud applications
    • Developing the skills to run your own application or services on Windows Azure

    If you would like to attend one of these courses, see Join a course for application instructions. You will be sent a registration link if space is available in the session. Spaces are limited, so potential attendees are encouraged to register early.

    If you can’t find a course near you, we will consider suggestions for additional in-person locations—see Request a course in your area for instructions on submitting a suggestion. We can’t promise to provide a course in your requested location, but we will consider all requests. And, of course, you can take advantage of the online video presentation of the course as soon as it’s available.

    Finally, I would like to thank all of our regional coordinators, partners, and university co-hosts for making such a success of the training program to date, and of course all of our attendees —without you, this would not be possible. For Microsoft Research, this includes Guobin Wu (China), Miran Lee (Korea), Juliana Salles and Jaime Puente (Brazil), and Kenji Takeda (Europe and South Africa).

    Stewart Tansley, Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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