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Computer Science Presentations

Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2009

Computer Science

The following list includes all presentations given at the Faculty Summit that relate to the theme of computer science. Topics range from robots teaching programming to energy-efficient computing.

Beyond Search with Data Driven Intelligence

Rakesh Agrawal, Microsoft Research; Harry Shum, Microsoft; Evelyne Viegas, Microsoft Research

These presentations capture the future of search by focusing on how data-driven research can help advance the state of the art in the online world and present a vision for humane computing.
Webcast: Beyond Search with Data Driven Intelligence

Robots as a Context for Teaching Beginner Programmers: the Conclusion of Three Years' Research

Mark Guzdial, Georgia Institute of Technology

IPRE (the Institute for Personal Robots in Education, hosted at Georgia Tech with Bryn Mawr College) phase 1 concludes this summer. This talk reviews IPRE’s progress in contextualized beginner computer science education using personal robots since its foundation in 2006, and looks forward to IPRE’s phase 2.
Webcast: Robots as a Context for Teaching Beginner Programmers
Mark Guzdial, Robots as a Context for Teaching Beginner Programmers: the Conclusion of Three Years' Research

Energy-Efficient Computing: the State of the Art

Moderator: Feng Zhao, Microsoft Research

David Patterson, University of California, Berkeley; John D. Davis, Microsoft Research

Power is increasingly becoming a critical performance metric for designing computing systems, from devices, services, to large-scale data centers. Two leading researchers, David Patterson from the University of California, Berkeley, and John D. Davis, Microsoft Research, present the latest research on energy-efficient computing for data centers and cloud computing.
(Updated: Due to a family emergency, John D. Davis replaces Jeffrey Chase.)

Webcast: Energy-Efficient Computing: the State of the Art

Technical Direction and Strategy at Microsoft – How ThinkWeek and Quests Work

Tara Prakriya, Microsoft

The Technical Strategy Group (TSG) works to capture and influence business, experience and technology direction, and opportunities for the company. The goal of this session is to share insight into how Microsoft technical strategy is developed across divisions, the future technology direction of the company, the intersection of business-experience-technology strategy alignment, how programs like ThinkWeek and Quests are instrumental in this process, and insight on how Microsoft Research engages in these programs.
Webcast: Technical Direction and Strategy at Microsoft – How ThinkWeek and Quests Work
Presentation: Tara Prakriya, Technical Direction and Strategy at Microsoft – How ThinkWeek and Quests Work

The Microsoft-Intel Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers

Wen-mei Hwu, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; David Patterson, University of California, Berkeley

Microsoft and Intel jointly funded two Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers (UPCRC): one at the University of California, Berkeley, and one at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The goal of these centers was to produce the innovative research that would help further the adoption and use of multicore parallel computers by developing new techniques for parallel programs and new end-user applications that could exploit these computers. Professors Patterson and Hwu describe the research that is ongoing at each of their institutions.

Webcast: The Microsoft-Intel Universal Parallel Computing Research Centers

Microsoft Cloud Computing Platform

Roger Barga, Microsoft Research; Dennis Gannon, Microsoft Research

Cloud computing uses data centers to provide on-demand access to services such as data storage and hosted applications that provide scalable Web services and large-scale scientific data analysis. While the architecture of a data center is similar to a conventional supercomputer, they are designed with very different goals. This talk highlights the basic cloud computing system architectures and the application programming models, including general concepts of data center architecture. We examine cloud computing and storage models with a detailed look at the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform.
Presentations: Roger Barga, Dennis Gannon, Microsoft Cloud Computing Platform

Panel: Energy-Efficient Computing: Hype or Science?
Moderator: Feng Zhao, Microsoft Research
Trishul Chilimbi, Microsoft Research; Fred Chong, University of California, Santa Barbara; Rajesh Gupta, University of California, San Diego; Philip Levis, Stanford University; Chuck Thacker, Microsoft Research

This panel provides a forum for lively debate about the directions, challenges, and ideas about building energy-efficient computing systems. The experts examine energy and power issues in hardware and systems design, interconnect and optics, networking fabric, embedded systems, and software design.

Webcast: Panel: Energy-Efficient Computing: Hype or Science?

Computational Thinking Enters the Mainstream

Moderator: Tom McMail, Microsoft Research

The Microsoft Carnegie Mellon Center for Computational Thinking was founded in 2007 to encourage breakthrough research in projects exemplifying this approach to problem solving. This session provides an overview of the investigations conducted at this center over its first two years and presents some interesting possibilities for the future.
Webcast: Computational Thinking Enters the Main Stream
Presentation: Tom McMail, Computational Thinking Enters the Main Stream

The Spread of Computational Thinking

Peter Lee, Carnegie Mellon University

Every educated person should be able to think computationally. That is the thesis first promoted by Jeannette Wing, which formed the foundation of the Microsoft-supported Center for Computational Thinking. In the same manner that mathematical thinking, global thinking, and so on, are critical for succeeding or even surviving in today's world, computational thinking addresses problems which would be unsolvable or solved less well without computational advantages and the mindset required to use them most creatively and effectively. As a means for conceptualizing and solving complex problems in a number of domains in both the sciences and humanities, it has received wide attention in the research, teaching, and policy communities.
Presentations: Peter Lee, Guy Blelloch, Christopher Langmead, Golan Levin, The Spread of Computational Thinking

Parallel Thinking

Guy Blelloch, Carnegie Mellon University

With the advent of Multicores, we are riding a third or fourth wave of parallel computing, and perhaps unlike previous ones this one will break. Many if not most computer science classes, however, remain case studies in how to push students into thinking sequentially. At the earliest stages, for example, we teach students that taking the dot product of two vectors or merging two lists involves starting at one end and sequentially traversing to the other. In reality, many problems, applications, and even algorithms are inherently parallel. The languages and models we use, however, push us to describe and conceptualize them sequentially. This talk describes some of the core concepts in parallel algorithms and points out that these ideas transcend any particular model and are thus largely robust against uncertainties in what parallel machines might look like. How programming languages can affect the way we think about the algorithms will also be discussed. Ideas from the audience are appreciated.

Computational Drug Discovery

Christopher Langmead, Carnegie Mellon University

We are using Computational Thinking to address the problem of designing drugs that evade resistance. Our approach uses two key abstractions. The first is to model the drug design process as a two-player game. Here, a pharmaceutical company makes a move by introducing a drug against a target molecule. The disease then makes a move by introducing mutations that decreases the binding affinity of the drug, while preserving the biological function of the target. The second abstraction is to model the physics of molecular interactions and the space of possible mutations as a complex probability distribution. This complex distribution is efficiently encoded by using undirected probabilistic graphical models; probabilistic queries are answered by using inference algorithms. This presentation focuses on graphical models used in this work.

Music Performance in the Computational Age

Roger Dannenberg, Carnegie Mellon University

Computing has revolutionized music performance, recording, distribution, and listening. To date, most of the revolution has been driven by advances in storage and communication. The next revolution will come from computation, especially interactive real-time systems. We have been exploring how computing can augment musical performance by amateurs and professionals alike. A recent concert featured a 20-piece digital string orchestra playing with a live jazz band. Future work is aimed at interfaces that extend human musical abilities, especially in live performance.
Presentation: Roger Dannenberg, Computational Thinking and Music Performance

Art and Code

Golan Levin, Carnegie Mellon University

Just as true literacy in English means being able to write as well as read, true literacy in software demands not only knowing how to use commercial software tools, but how to create new software for oneself and for others. Recently, a new set of visually- and musically-oriented programming environments (and accompanying pedagogic techniques) have been developed by artists, and for artists. These toolkits—many of which are free, open-source initiatives—have made enormous inroads towards democratizing the education of computational thinking worldwide. With support from the Computational Thinking Center, a conference concerned with "programming environments for artists, young people, and the rest of us" brought together 15 of the key innovators leading significant revolutions in software-arts education, and provided workshops in 11 different arts-programming languages to an extremely diverse new community of creators.