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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

    Inviting girls to dream big

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    On March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day. Every year on this date, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. Women's equality has made positive gains, but plenty of inequality still exists. International Women's Day commemorates the social, political, and economic achievements of women, while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. “Inspiring Change” was the theme of the 2014 celebration, and the goal was to encourage advocacy for women's advancement everywhere in every way. Promoting women’s equality requires courageously challenging the status quo and vigilantly inspiring positive change. In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Microsoft profiled the work of five female employees—whose efforts are representative of the work of countless other Microsoft women—in empowering girls’ and women’s involvement in science, research, computing, and engineering.

    Big Dream: encouraging girls to pursue a future in science and technology

    Just two days after International Women’s Day, the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) kicked off at United Nations Headquarters in New York. CSW is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policymaking body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. This year’s CSW theme was access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science, and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work. At CSW, I had the privilege of presenting Microsoft’s Big Dream Movement—an exciting new effort to involve more girls in science and technology—on Friday, March 14, during the UN Women Session, "ICT for women’s economic empowerment and poverty alleviation."

    The Big Dream Movement connects organizations, academia, and resources to girls around the world to help them pursue a future in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. The movement is anchored by Big Dream, a documentary film that follows the stories of seven young women who are breaking barriers and overcoming personal challenges to follow their passions in STEM fields. From small town Iowa to the bustling streets of the Middle East, Big Dream immerses viewers in a world designed by and for the next generation of girls. Our hope is that this inspirational film will excite young women, their families, and friends to the possibilities inherent in science and technology.


    Watch the Big Dream trailer

    Microsoft is pleased to be underwriting this film and to be partnering with the following organizations to make the Big Dream Movement a reality around the world: UN Women, ITU (the International Telecommunications Union), UNESCO, the European Commission, Zen Digital- DLI, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Girls Collaborative Project, the Girl Scouts, the National Center for Women in Technology, the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), ACM-W, IEEE-Women in Engineering, and Black Girls Code. We are pleased to have the following on our leadership team: Jennifer Breslin UN Women; Gary Fowler, ITU; Saniye Gülser Corat, UNESCO; Cheryl Miller, Zen Digital- DL and the EU Commission; Lucy Sanders, NCWIT; Telle Whitney, ABI; Kimberly Brant, Black Girls Code; Janice Cuny, the National Science Foundation; Karen Peterson, National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP); Kristen Grennan, Global Girls Scouts; and Valeria Barr, ACM-W.

    During the UN Women Session at CSW, on behalf of Microsoft I took part in a wide-ranging discussion of what must be done to attract more women to STEM fields. Session participants agreed that it is time to change the message and help women become producers instead of consumers of technology, and to empower women to help create the solutions for the future. We encouraged the 45 member states elected by ECOSOC to participate in the Big Dream Movement. Throughout the coming year, the movement will publicize the many “best-kept secrets”—those amazing organizations, academic institutions, researchers, professors, and companies that have programs and tools to help expose women to STEM. We will also educate young women about the career possibilities and the impact they can make by pursuing careers in STEM fields.

    This summer (northern hemisphere), our website, BigDreamMovement.com, will go live, providing a portal for you to learn about programs and tools that promote computing and STEM. Then, starting in the fall, we plan to show Big Dream at events all over the world. Panel discussions will follow immediately after the screening, during which local students will talk about their experiences in STEM. Local organizations will also be on hand to talk with students and parents about STEM opportunities in the community. And the aforementioned website will include a worldwide registry of organizations that provide STEM opportunities to girls, so that anyone can find local resources and programs. At the end of 2015, we will hand over all of the assets to UN Women, which will connect women around the world and keep the movement thriving through the Knowledge Gateway for Women's Economic Empowerment.

    In the meantime, we encourage you to SKYPE BigDreamMovement and leave a personal video message. If you’re a professional woman or man, describe your Big Dream and offer advice to young women wanting to pursue a future in STEM. If you’re a young woman, tell us what is your Big Dream is and how a future in STEM can help you get there.

    Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director, Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Microsoft Research support for climate change studies

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    Last June, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a Climate Action Plan to help predict and address the impacts of climate change. To further this important effort, Microsoft Research is pleased to launch a special Climate Data award program, which offers scientists and decision-makers 12 months of free Windows Azure cloud-computing resources. The grants will go to 40 awardees selected from proposals submitted by June 15, 2014. Each award provides up to 180,000 hours of cloud-computing time and 20 terabytes of cloud storage.

    White House Climate Data Initiative addresses climate change

    This special Climate Data award is part of the ongoing Windows Azure for Research program, through which Microsoft Research not only provides grants of cloud-computing resources but also in-person and online training on how to use Windows Azure for scientific and scholarly research. Windows Azure enables investigators to harness the power and scalability of cloud computing to facilitate the collaborative and computational needs of data-intensive research.

    To further promote resilience to the impacts of climate change, Microsoft commits to make FetchClimate available for adoption. FetchClimate is available to all researchers—not just the award recipients—as a fast, free, intelligent environmental information-retrieval service that provides past and present observational data and climate prediction information. Microsoft will provide the FetchClimate cloud-based system for re-implementation and adaptation to the specific needs of new projects.

    Microsoft Research is also dedicated to sharing the powerful business intelligence tools built into the Microsoft technology platform. These tools support data self-service, analysis, visualization, and security, connecting decision makers to the information streams that will be forthcoming in response to the White House’s call to action through its Climate Data Initiative. Like FetchClimate, these business intelligence tools are available to everyone, not just the Climate Data awardees.

    Here’s a sample scenario for how these all these resources could be coordinated: Windows Azure cloud services—through FetchClimate—would provide climate predictions for future extreme rainfall events. This predictive information would inform a planning model built on Microsoft Business Intelligence technologies, in turn enabling state planners to prioritize emergency preparedness and flood mitigation projects to protect population centers and transportation infrastructure.

    We’re excited to be part of this effort to predict and alleviate the deleterious impacts of climate change.

    View more information on the award proposal process.

    Rob Fatland, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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    2014 Microsoft Research PhD Scholarship projects announced

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    Every year since 2004, the Microsoft Research PhD Scholarship Programme has awarded scholarships to fund PhD students’ work on selected projects in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region. We are pleased to announce the selected PhD projects for 2014.

    The selection process was anything but easy. We received 79 eligible project proposals, which we assessed via a two-stage review process. During stage 1, a panel of Microsoft Researchers determined whether the proposed project met the basic selection criteria, including relevance to topics that are being researched at Microsoft Research Cambridge. Those proposals that advanced to stage 2 were then evaluated by internal and external reviewers, who provided detailed feedback.

    As a result of this comprehensive evaluation process, we selected 22 projects that will receive funding through Microsoft Research Connections starting in the academic year 2014–2015. These include eight proposals that relate to the new Joint Initiative with University College London and the Joint Initiative in Informatics with Edinburgh University.
     
    The 22 projects split across seven countries in the EMEA region (Belgium, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) and represent a variety of research areas, including computational biology, machine learning, health science, geo and environmental science, and computer science. Applicants, who are PhD supervisors, will collaborate with an assigned Microsoft Research co-supervisor to support a PhD student for up to three years as he or she carries out the proposed research project. Supervisors are actively recruiting graduate students for these PhD projects; candidate selection should be complete by June 2015.

    Below is a list of the selected projects, including the PhD supervisor and the institution:

    • Large-Scale Diverse Learning for Structured Output Prediction
      Pawan Kumar, Ecole Centrale Paris, INRIA Saclay
    • Computational Algorithms as Biological Regulatory Networks
      Attila Csikasz-Nagy, King's College London
    • Leveraging Data Reuse for Efficient Ranker Evaluation in Information Retrieval
      Maarten De Rijke, University of Amsterdam
    • Sketching Algorithms for Massive Graphs and Matrices
      Graham Cormode, University of Warwick
    • Verifying Concurrent Higher-Order Programs
      Matthew Hague, Royal Holloway University of London
    • GeoGraph: Efficient Geographically Distributed Graph Infrastructure
      Fernando Pedone, University of Lugano
    • Computation During Development: Characterising the Molecular Programs that Underlie Pluripotency and Differentiation in Embryoni
      Brian Hendrich, University of Cambridge
    • The Generality and Mechanism of Bet-Hedging in Bacteria
      James Locke, Sainsbury Laboratory
    • Statistical Models and Methods for Privacy Technologies
      Claudia Diaz, KU Leuven
    • Rethinking Resource Allocation in Data Centres: Optimization, Incentives, and Beyond
      Michael Schapira, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    • Why Do People Communicate?
      Constantine Sandis, Oxford Brookes University
    • Reasoning about Side Channels in Cryptographic Protocols
      Boris Köpf, IMDEA Software Institute
    • Understanding Flows of Personal Information in a Connected World
      Alastair Beresford, University of Cambridge
    • Advancing Random Forests and Other Ensembles
      Nando De Freitas, University of Oxford

    Joint Initiative with University College London:

    • 3D World: Creation, Abstraction, and Application of Massive Crowd-sourced Collections of Heterogeneous 3D Models
      Niloy Mitra
    • Private Computation as a Service
      George Danezis
    • Understanding the Moving Quadruped: Computer Vision to Advance Science, Medicine, and Veterinary Care
      Gabriel Brostow
    • Ad-hoc Cross-Device Interactions Facilitating Small-Group Collaborative Explorations and Curation of Historic Documents
      Nicolai Marquardt

    Joint Initiative with Informatics with University of Edinburgh:

    • Vision as Inverse Graphics
      Christopher Williams
    • TypeScript: The Next Generation
      Philip Wadler
    • Formal Language Support for Ecological Modelling
      Jane Hillston
    • SMT for Nonlinear Constraints with Application to Computational Biology
      Paul Jackson

    Thank you to all who applied this year.

    We look forward to receiving equally stimulating project proposals for next year’s PhD scholarships. Mark your calendar for September 1, 2014, when the submission tool for the 2015 applications will open.
     
    —Daron Green, Director, Microsoft Research

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