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Distinguished Lecturer Series

The Distinguished Lecturer Series invites academic leaders and scientists who had made significant contributions in their field to share insights on research, future trends, and social impact through technology. Visiting lecturers have the opportunity to meet with Microsoft Research Asia researchers who share mutual interests to discuss research updates and potential collaborations. 

Featured Lecturers

Bill Gates Sr.

Hsiao-Wuen Hon, Managing Director, Microsoft Research Asia; Bill Gates Sr.; and Lolan Song, Senior Director of University Relations, Microsoft Research AsiaHsiao-Wuen Hon, Managing Director, Microsoft Research Asia; Bill Gates Sr.; and Lolan Song, Senior Director of University Relations, Microsoft Research AsiaBill Gates Sr. and his wife, Mimi Gardner Gates, visited Microsoft Research Asia on November 24, 2010. Mr. Gates lectured about his book, Showing Up for Life: Thoughts on the Gifts of a Lifetime.

While Gates is well-known as the father of personal computer entrepreneur and chairman of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates, he is also the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this capacity, he guides the foundation’s vision and strategic direction and serves as an advocate for its key issues.

During his lecture, Gates presented a variety of ideas that he felt could help bring about a better world. “There is a sense about the important significance of the welfare of every single individual human being in the world,” he said, “and to generate some degree of the same potential for everyone, in terms of health, in terms of prosperity, in the world at large.”

Gates told the audience that he prefers the role of father. “The highest joy of my life is my three children,” he asserted. When prompted to elaborate further on raising such a well-known public figure, Gates was quick to point out that he did not cultivate his children on purpose. “It seems strange to me that we were so random about our ability to be good parents, that there was so little intellectual or organized approach to the business of raising our children.”

Gates autographs his book, "Showing Up for Life."Gates autographs his book, "Showing Up for Life."The lecture was hosted by Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, Managing Director of Microsoft Research Asia, who asked Mr. Gates a series of questions that were collected from Microsoft Research Asia interns and staff members.

Ray Yip, director of the China Program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Adam Gerstenmier, special assistant to the co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Jinshi Fan, the managing director of Dunhuang Research, were among those attending the lecture.

 

Professor Barbara Liskov

Professor Barbara LiskovProfessor Liskov lectures at Microsoft Research Asia Barbara Liskov, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and winner of 2008 ACM A.M. Turing Award, gave a distinguished lecture on October 25, 2010, at Microsoft Research Asia. The lecture, called “The Power of Abstraction,” attracted more than 200 students from Tsinghua University, Beihang University, and Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, as well as interns and staff from Microsoft Research Asia.

In the lecture, Professor Liskov introduced her most significant research achievement, which stems from her influential contributions to the use of data abstraction, a method for organizing complex programs. She was a leader in demonstrating how data abstraction could be used to make software easier to construct, modify, and maintain.

Professor Liskov also discussed CLU, an object-oriented programming language that she designed. CLU incorporates clusters to provide coherent, systematic handling of abstract data types. She and her colleagues at MIT subsequently developed efficient CLU compiler implementations on several different machines.

Building on CLU concepts, Liskov followed with Argus, a distributed programming language. Its novel features led to further developments in distributed system design that could scale to systems connected by a network. This achievement laid the groundwork for modern search engines.

Liskov’s groundbreaking research underpins virtually every modern computer application, forming the basis of modern programming languages such as Java, C#, and C++.

Professor Liskov’s current area of research focuses on storage on the Internet. “I really do believe that in the not too far distant future, more and more of our storage is going to be moved off of our personal devices and on to storage provided thorough Internet providers,” said Liskov.

Dr. Mimi Gates

Dr. Gates lectures at Microsoft Research AsiaDr. Gates lectures at Microsoft Research AsiaDr. Mimi Gates, Director Emerita of the Seattle Art Museum, visited Microsoft Research Asia on September 11, 2009. In the talk titled, “Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice: The Flowering Plum in Chinese Art,” Dr. Gates explored the rich tradition of the flowering plum image used in Chinese poetry, painting, and the decorative arts.

 Prunus mume, commonly known as Chinese plum, is China's most cherished flowering tree. Because plum is the first tree to flower, its blossoms appearing amidst the snow and ice of late winter, plum embodies the ability to endure hardship and the promise of spring. Dr. Gates, through her vivid lecture, revealed the characters of plum, which can be summarized as "bones of jade and soul of ice."

The computer-generated Chinese couplet that contains Dr. Gates’ name and her speech titleThe computer-generated Chinese couplet that contains Dr. Gates’ name and her speech titleThe themes so intimately tied to the flowering plum were first developed in poetry and later adopted by painting. Prominent are the themes of the plum blossom beauty, the embodiment of simple elegance and transience, and the flowering-plum recluse—high-minded and transcending worldly concerns.

More than 200 Microsoft Research Asia employees and interns—the majority from computer science related backgrounds—attended the talk and actively engaged with Dr. Gates. “Computing beyond Computer Science” was featured in the Q&A session in which Dr. Shipeng Li generated a Chinese couplet containing the speech title and the speaker's name by means of the Microsoft Research Asia-developed Chinese couplet software.

Professor Bo Zhang

Professor Bo Zhang, member of Chinese Academy of Sciences, visited Microsoft Research Asia on April 13–14, 2009. His visit consisted of a lecture titled “There Is No Royal Way to Computer Vision” and meetings with researchers in the lab from the following groups:

Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, Managing Director of Microsoft Research Asia, presents Professor Bo Zhang with the Distinguished Lecturer Series plaqueDr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, Managing Director of Microsoft Research Asia, presents Professor Bo Zhang with Distinguished Lecturer Series plaqueIn his lecture, Professor Zhang explained that one of main goals of artificial intelligence (AI) is to endow computers with human visual capability, but we are far from this goal. Taking object recognition as an example, in the 1980s, the main approach to addressing the problem was 3D reconstruction, for example, the reconstruction of a 3D object from 2D images. In the 1900s, since the 3D construction method was confronted with extreme difficulties, most researchers abandoned the attempts and turned to a 2D-based approach, such as object recognition directly from 2D images.

Professor Zhang also addressed the main principles of the new 2D-based approach, its seedtime, and recent difficulties. From digital cameras, we had a huge amount of 2D image data. In object recognition or classification, the data should be transformed into an object invariant representation. In order to solve the program, we needed two key techniques: a robust detector and an object invariant descriptor. Despite great efforts to develop the two key techniques, researchers have not discovered an efficient solution. In the future, computer science may be able to apply discoveries from neuron science or brain science to this field. Professor Zhang discussed what computer vision could learn from human visual principles and how it would be affected by the new interdisciplinary research. Future work in this field may present many additional challenges.

Researchers and interns from Microsoft Research Asia attended Professor Zhang's lectureResearchers and interns from Microsoft Research Asia attended the lecture