Five Innovators to Revolutionize Computer Science
May 01, 2008
Microsoft Research helps five young faculty members pursue breakthrough research as part of its New Faculty Fellowship Program.

REDMOND, Wash. — May 1, 2008 — Microsoft Research today recognized five innovative, young faculty members from across the nation to join the ranks of Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellows. This program now encompasses 20 academic researchers whose exceptional talent for research and thought leadership make them standouts in their fields. The selected professors are exploring breakthrough, high-impact research that has the potential to help solve some of today’s most challenging societal problems.

“We want to make it easier for early-career faculty to take risks in their research,” said Sailesh Chutani, senior director of Microsoft External Research. “We believe our New Faculty Fellows program provides young professors with the means to pursue research with the potential to make a profound impact.”

About 100 young faculty members from the United States and Canada were nominated for the 2008 awards. The five 2008 New Faculty Fellows are as follows:

  • Kristen Grauman, University of Texas at Austin. Grauman’s research focuses on designing the algorithms and learning processes that will allow computers to understand and organize visual information. In particular, she is interested in tackling the major scalability issues that surround visual recognition and search. The goal is to make it possible to efficiently index large volumes of visual data (images or videos) based on their content — a functionality that has the potential to greatly benefit a variety of users, from consumers to scientists and engineers.

  • Susan Hohenberger, Johns Hopkins University. Hohenberger focuses on cryptography, the art of securely communicating. She is interested in designing secure solutions for pervasive settings, where devices everywhere are constantly talking to their environments, which may require the ability to quickly process a large number of incoming messages. Her research includes an emphasis on developing privacy-friendly technologies, such as anonymous communication and electronic cash.

  • Robert Kleinberg, Cornell University. Kleinberg studies the theory of algorithm design under informational limitations. This means that he looks at practical questions in computer science — such as how to design more robust adaptive systems for Web search, network routing, online auctions and product recommendations — and address these questions using mathematically rigorous techniques that build on ideas from learning theory, game theory and information theory.

  • Philip Levis, Stanford University. Levis researches software and networking for tiny, low-power, wireless sensors. He focuses on making these networks of sensors easier to deploy and maintain by researching ultrasimple algorithms that use robust local rules to achieve desirable global behaviors. Software he develops is used by hundreds of research groups worldwide and runs on millions of nodes.

  • Russell Tedrake, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tedrake focuses on computational and machine-learning approaches to control system design for robots that walk, run, swim and fly more like real animals. He believes that to succeed, both the mechanical design of the robots and the algorithms for controller design must exploit the natural, nonlinear dynamics of locomotion. In the next few years, he aims to build bipedal robots that can walk and jump across piles of rocks, and develop robotic birds with flapping wings that can gracefully land on a perch.

“I’m delighted and honored to be selected for the Microsoft fellowship, and to be included among the group of past and present winners whom I deeply admire,” said Robert Kleinberg, assistant professor in the department of computer science at Cornell University. “The most important resource that my research requires is interaction with gifted colleagues, and the fellowship funds give me a wide range of options, such as supporting graduate students and postdocs, and organizing symposia. I’m grateful to Microsoft Research for this extremely generous gift and for the hugely positive influence they’ve had on my growth as a researcher over the years.”

The Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship program was created in 2005 to honor first-, second- and third-year university professors who demonstrate exceptional talent for unique research and thought leadership in computer science and related fields. These awards provide funds to encourage creative freedom and collaboration opportunities among tomorrow’s most promising new professors.

The Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship program provides $1 million in funding each year. Each chosen fellow receives $200,000 to be used at his or her discretion. Additional resources include software, invitations to academic and professional conferences, and the opportunity to engage firsthand with leading researchers from Microsoft Research. As an unrestricted gift, the fellows have the freedom to plan their research agenda, hire grad students, build labs and purchase equipment.

According to the eligibility criteria, only one nominee per university may be entered into the program’s rigorous, multitier selection process, which culminated this year with 11 finalists being interviewed face to face by a distinguished panel of Microsoft Research executives and researchers, as well as faculty members from some of the nation’s leading universities. From the 11 finalists, five were chosen as the 2008 Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellows.

“Microsoft is committed to the New Faculty Fellows program with its potential to create exciting opportunities for the computer science researchers, educators and leaders of tomorrow,” Chutani said. “For the pipeline of computer science and engineering students to increase, there also needs to be a pipeline of dynamic faculty like these to inspire and lead them.”

These awards are part of Microsoft Research’s broader efforts aimed at funding innovative academic research that will significantly extend the state of the art in computing and ensure a rich future for computing through recognition and support of the next generation of computer science leaders.

About Microsoft Research

Founded in 1991, Microsoft Research is dedicated to conducting both basic and applied research in computer science and software engineering. Its goals are to enhance the user experience on computing devices, reduce the cost of writing and maintaining software, and invent novel computing technologies. Researchers focus on more than 55 areas of computing and collaborate with leading academic, government and industry researchers to advance the state of the art in such areas as graphics, speech recognition, user-interface research, natural language processing, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, and the mathematical sciences. Microsoft Research currently employs more than 800 people in six labs located in Redmond, Wash.; Cambridge, Mass.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; Cambridge, England; Beijing, China; and Bangalore, India. Microsoft Research collaborates openly with colleges and universities worldwide to enhance the teaching and learning experience, inspire technological innovation, and broadly advance the field of computer science. More information can be found at

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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