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Microsoft Research Cambridge Celebrates Computer Scientists of the Future
By Rob Knies
December 5, 2006 4:00 PM PT

Whether it be teens, Ph.D. candidates, or new faculty, Microsoft Research Cambridge is committed to supporting European students demonstrating the potential to make a significant contribution to science, and that commitment was underscored Dec. 4-5.

Through a pair of events, the Cambridge lab confirmed its interest in fostering and cultivating the study of computer science and students working at the intersection of computing and the sciences.

On Dec. 4, the lab, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, hosted 250 students from 19 schools for a day of talks, demos, and interactive sessions—with the theme of Think Computer Science!—designed to provide insight into the world of a computer scientist and attract more children and young adults to computer science.

The following day, 26 recipients of Ph.D. scholarships and early-career fellowships from Microsoft Research were invited to Cambridge to hear and mingle with a collection of researchers from the lab.

“One of our goals is to inspire and educate the scientists of tomorrow,” said Andrew Herbert, managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge. “Through events such as the Think Computer Science! Lectures, in partnership with the University of Cambridge, and the European Ph.D. scholarships and fellowships that we’re announcing to support the top students and scientists in Europe, we aim to help fuel future discovery and ensure that Europe continues its heritage of scientific and technological innovation.”

The A-level students invited to the Dec. 4 event spent a full day hearing about the exciting possibilities available to those who pursue studies in computer science. Speakers from Microsoft and the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory offered insights into a wealth of topics:

  • Stephen Emmott, director of the Microsoft Research European Science Initiative, discussed Towards 2020 Science, a vision that suggests new directions in science and computing.
  • Abigail Sellen, senior researcher, talked about new developments for home-based messaging.
  • Peter Robinson of the University of Cambridge addressed the topic of affective inference.
  • Neil Dodgson of the University of Cambridge delivered a talk entitled The Secret Life of the Mobile Phone.
  • Antonio Criminisi, researcher, presented a half-hour talk on object-class recognition.
  • Tony Cocks, partner solution sales specialist for Microsoft UK, gave a crowd-pleasing overview called Microsoft and Gadgets.

In addition, students from eight schools participated in a poster exhibition with the theme of the Computer of the Future. The winning school, Aylesbury Grammar School, was awarded a prize of £1,000.

Andrew Herbert (fourth from right), managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, joins students from Aylesbury Grammar School, winner of the Think Computer Science! poster competition.

During a lunch break, students were able to witness five tech demos:

  • Emotionally Intelligent Interfaces: How machine learning is enabling machines to ‘see,’ giving them an ability to extract, analyze, and make sense of information from images or video. The demo, provided by Robinson, focused on footage of facial expressions.
  • 2007 Microsoft Office system: An overview of significant new capabilities in the latest Microsoft Office System.
  • SenseCam: Lyndsay Williams of Microsoft Research Cambridge demonstrated a wearable digital camera that passively captures hundreds of images per day to aid the memory of the person who uses the device.
  • The History of the Computer: A journey back through time, led by Herbert.
  • Windows Vista: An early peek at Microsoft’s new operating system.

The event concluded with a question-and-answer session with a panel consisting of the day’s presenters.

“Our aim with the Think Computer Science ! Lectures ,” Herbert said, “ is to show younger students that computer science goes beyond learning how to use spreadsheets and word processors, and that , through computer science , they can impact the role that the computers of tomorrow have on our quality of life. We shared with them our vision of what it means to do computer science — which involves everything from sociology to mobile devices—and we tried to open their eyes to the broad range of very interesting aspects involved in computer science.”

On Dec. 5, Ph.D. scholars and faculty fellows enjoyed an opportunity to mix with researchers and their peers, hailing from nations including Austria, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Each year, students accepted by a European university for Ph.D. study are eligible to apply to the European Ph.D. Scholarship Programme. As many as 25 awards will be made in 2007, with each recipient awarded as much as €100,000 over three years. Each recipient also receives a laptop and pertinent software. At present, 56 students are sponsored through the programme, and the total investment by Microsoft Research is more than €1.7 million per year.

The programme is part of Microsoft’s European Science Initiative, which is focused on enabling and accelerating new kinds of science and computing, areas with the potential to create profound social, technological, scientific, and economic change.

Included in the initiative is the Fellowship Programme for Early-Career Scientists, in which as many as five highly promising post-doctoral scientists who are establishing a track record of world-leading research in science and technology receive support of as much as €250,000.

“Supporting the development of Europe’s intellectual capital is critical to ensuring that the region stays competitive in the global scientific community, as it has done throughout history,” said Fabien Petitcolas, head of Intellectual Capital Development at Microsoft Research Cambridge. “Microsoft is enabling this by partnering with the academic community and providing support for more than 100 of Europe’s brightest scholars and scientists through our Ph.D. scholarships, our fellowship programme, and calls for proposals.”

The 2006 European Ph.D. Scholarship Programme recipients:

  • Conor Cafferkey, Dublin City University, Ireland.
  • Daniel Cederman, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
  • Antonio dos Reis Morgado, University of Southampton, United Kingdom.
  • Marije Geldof, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom.
  • Lynne Hamill, University of Surrey, United Kingdom.
  • Adriaan Middelkoop, Utrecht University, Netherlands.
  • Iris (Spyridoula) Miliaraki, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece.
  • Umar Mohammed, University College London, United Kingdom.
  • Eugene Murnane, University of Limerick, Ireland.
  • Michael Pedersen, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
  • Milan Raicevic, University of Durham, United Kingdom.
  • Christoph Rhemann, Vienna University of Technology, Austria.
  • Cliona Roche, University College Dublin, Ireland.
  • Martin Rohrmeier, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
  • Aryeh Rowe, Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom.
  • Guillem Rull Fort, Technical University of Catalonia, Spain.
  • Jorge Salas López, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain.
  • Michael Smith, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
  • Christian Steinruecken, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
  • Michael Verhoek, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
  • Sara Vicente, University College London, United Kingdom.
  • Thomas Wies, University of Freiburg, Germany.

The 2005 European Fellowship Programme recipients:

  • Ruth Baker, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
  • Klaus-Peter Zauner, University of Southampton, United Kingdom.

The 2006 European Fellowship Programme recipients:

  • Andrey Rybalchenko, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • Mark Rouncefield, University of Lancaster, United Kingdom.