Craig Mundie Inspires Young Researchers in China

On March 22, 2012, Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief strategy and research officer, met to discuss future trends in computing with some of the brightest young minds in China. This stellar group, all members of Microsoft Research Asia’s Visiting Young Faculty program, Star Track, represent the next generation of Chinese computer scientists, engineers, educators, and researchers.

Craig Mundie meets with members of Microsoft Research Asia's Star Track programCraig Mundie meets with members of Microsoft Research Asia's Star Track program

“Get ready for our future and our ideas.” This could be the anthem for young IT talent in China, and was certainly the sentiment of the group that greeted Craig. China today stands at a strategic intersection of economic and IT trends, poised for a future in which Chinese research and innovation play major global roles—a future that Microsoft Research Asia is actively working to inspire.

While the Chinese government has increased funding to universities, Chinese researchers still face gaps in basic research training and methodology compared to their Western counterparts. Efforts like Microsoft Research Asia’s Star Track program are proving invaluable in bridging these gaps. The Star Track program enables promising young academics, selected through a rigorous and competitive process, to spend six months at Microsoft Research Asia. There, they work in a top research environment, receive priceless mentorship from Microsoft Research Asia researchers, co-supervise interns, and network with visiting researchers from all over the world.

The program not only provides a unique training ground for promising young researchers—who work on research projects related to state-of-the-art technologies and learn research protocols—but it also builds a solid base of future research partnership for the Chinese universities and Microsoft Research Asia.

Craig met with about a dozen current and past members of the Star Track program at Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing. They represented a cross-section of the 50 scholars from 20 universities who have participated in the program, including many who have gone on to earn international recognition for research achievements since the program’s inception in 2009.

The attendees were eager to share their research interests, many of which align with Microsoft’s strategic focus on interactions between people and computers. The result was a uniquely candid and open discussion. It captured the nuances of one of the world’s most dynamic economies and offered insights from one of the industry’s leading innovators and influencers. As a partner in developing the local IT ecosystem with the Chinese government, academic institutions, and professional organizations, Microsoft Research recognizes that such opportunities are essential to help nurture the future generation of IT leaders within China.

Craig’s discussion included the following topics:

  • Natural user interface (NUI) technologies, which allow for natural and intuitive human-computer actions by using, for example, gestures and speech. Craig talked about the potential of NUI technologies to promote advances in healthcare, education, and the environment.
  • Machine learning, which will be crucial in deriving insights from big data. As Craig described it, machine learning will enable the discovery of patterns that cannot readily be observed by humans.
  • Microsoft’s commitment to improving the user experience through technology innovation—in cloud computing, social networking, mobile computing, or elsewhere. For example, he discussed how the Metro interface of the new Windows Phone, released the preceding day in China, improves the user experience.

By the end of the 90-minute session, it was clear that we are at the brink of big things in computing—and that the future includes a major role for China-based research and researchers.

Microsoft Research Asia accepts nominations for the Star Track Visiting Young Faculty program from partner universities and domain experts. To be considered, the nominees must have research interests in common with ongoing research at Microsoft Research Asia, and must have obtained their Ph.D. within the past five years. Learn more.