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Posted by Rob Knies
You’ve probably heard a bit about big data in recent months. Chatter abounds about the enticing possibilities such prodigious data collections offer. But what, really, is in store for owners and users of big data sets?
Curtis Wong knows.
He should. Wong was the Microsoft Research scientist who gave the world the WorldWide Telescope, used by legions of astronomy fans fascinated by the informative, fun experience offered by a virtual telescope that delivers seamless, guided explorations of the universe.
On April 17, during Microsoft Research’s Silicon Valley TechFair, he is demonstrating a project called Holograph, an interactive, 3-D data-visualization research platform that can render static and dynamic data above or below the plane of a display, using a variety of 3-D stereographic techniques.
By 2018, predicts the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 1.4 million technology jobs in the United States will be unfilled. At current rates for issuance of computer-science degrees, only 61 percent of those openings will be filled—and just 29 percent of the applicants for those will be women.It’s quite a disconnect. A study has shown that 57 percent of women earn undergraduate degrees, but only 18 percent of them graduate with a computer-science degree—this in a clean, relatively well-paid industry. Why?Aware of such trends, Microsoft representatives visiting universities across the world have been making pertinent observations, and they have learned that women find it difficult to be recognized for their technical capabilities—and often lack confidence in those abilities. Another factor is that the first couple of years of computer-science studies can be difficult, abstract, and solitary, making it difficult to see how the creativity and collaboration women want in a job might be applicable. In addition, women are motivated to pursue opportunities to make an impact or give back to society, and they don’t see how computer science can help them do so. Finally, there is a death of women in computer-science faculties, so woman undergrads often have no role models.But the situation, while dire, is not hopeless, and therein lies the momentum behind the second annual International Women’s Hackathon, being held April 25-27.
Among the many activities that occupy a research scientist, participation in conferences focused on an individual’s fields of interest ranks high. They represent an opportunity to meet with colleagues, get up to speed with what others are doing, and share some findings of your own.Naturally, then, participants occasionally get asked to become organizers—an entirely different kind of sharing. Today, that’s where Ratul Mahajan of Microsoft Research finds himself.Mahajan, a senior researcher in the Mobility and Networking Research Group, is serving as program co-chair for NSDI ’14, the 11th USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation, which runs from April 2 through 4 in Seattle. So, a day before the event begins, he is simultaneously excited and keeping his fingers crossed.
George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, meet Jennifer Chayes and Leslie Lamport.
Figuratively speaking, that’s what happened on April 23, when the American Academy of Arts & Sciences announced that Chayes and Lamport, of Microsoft Research, have been elected as Fellows.Chayes, a Microsoft distinguished scientist and managing director of Microsoft Research New England and Microsoft Research New York City, and Lamport, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, thus join the august company of Washington, the first U.S. president, and Franklin, one of the country’s Founding Fathers. Other notable Academy Fellows include the likes of Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Mead, and Martin Luther King Jr.
Jaime Teevan, it seems, can do it all. Since joining Microsoft Research in 2006, her focus on personalized search has led to a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a couple of best-paper awards from prestigious academic conferences, and recognition from Technology Review as one of the world’s top young innovators. She has established herself as among Microsoft's leaders of the future.Thus, it comes as little surprise that on April 22, the Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W) has named Teevan as the 2014 winner of the Anita Borg Early Career Award.That honor, named after the late Anita Borg, a CRA-W pioneer, is presented annually to a woman in computer science and/or engineering at a relatively early state in her career who has made significant research contributions while also having a positive, significant impact on advancing women in the computer-research community.Oh, and one other thing: Teevan is also the mother of four children under the age of 10—all of them boys.