Microsoft Research New England Kicks Off New Era in Computer Science
Sept. 22, 2008
New lab in Cambridge, Mass., to focus on interdisciplinary research in partnership with region’s tech community.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Sept. 22, 2008 — Microsoft Research’s newest lab officially opened today with a symposium hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Microsoft Research New England was founded this past July by Managing Director Jennifer Chayes, Ph.D., and Deputy Managing Director Christian Borgs, Ph.D., with a charter to build on Microsoft Corp.’s commitment to advancing the state of the art in computing. The lab’s focus will be on interdisciplinary research to explore the boundaries between traditional computer science and social sciences, in collaboration with the broader research community.

“As part of the core mission of Microsoft Research, we’re investing in a sixth research lab in one of the great research and technology hotbeds of the world,” said Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research. “Jennifer Chayes is one of the most accomplished researchers in her field, and the combination of her leadership, the great cross-disciplinary team she has assembled and the fertile academic ground of New England is a powerful one.”

Christian Borgs, deputy managing director, Microsoft Research New England, Jennifer Chayes, managing director, Microsoft Research New England, and Rick Rashid, senior vice president, Microsoft Research, officially opened Microsoft Corp.'s newest lab in Cambridge, Mass., today.
Christian Borgs, deputy managing director, Microsoft Research New England, Jennifer Chayes, managing director, Microsoft Research New England, and Rick Rashid, senior vice president, Microsoft Research, officially opened Microsoft Corp.'s newest lab in Cambridge, Mass., today.
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Microsoft Research New England will focus initially on the combination of core computer science — especially as it relates to new algorithms — and the social sciences, including economics, psychology and sociology. An additional team of researchers also will focus on design. The combination will bring together form and functionality in the context of how people use — or want to use — technology, with a goal to envision and begin developing the technology experiences of the future.

“Technology is part of the fabric of society today,” Chayes said. “By merging the disciplines of computer science and social science, the research we’re doing at the New England lab begins a new era in computer science and is really a reflection of how technology is evolving along with human beings. We have a great team in place, and our location in the New England technology and academic ‘green belt’ should provide an amazing source of talent, partnerships and ideas.”

Chayes has established an initial core team of 33 distinguished researchers, post-doctoral students, interns and visiting researchers to begin serious research in earnest. Six of the principal researchers who have joined the lab have long ties to Microsoft and the broader research community. Others have joined the lab from around the world, making the team both multidisciplinary and multinational in nature.

In addition to the foundational team, Chayes said she and Microsoft Research as a whole continue to look for the best researchers in the world to join the organization, as well as to collaborate on research projects.

“If you’re at the top of your field, whether in computer science or social science, and you’re determined to find ways for technology to change people’s lives for the better, we want to hear from you,” Chayes said.

The new lab also is expected to benefit other research and academic institutions in the New England area, providing opportunities for collaboration and connections with top Microsoft researchers. The lab already is working on two joint seminars with MIT — one with the MIT Laboratory of Information and Decision Science and another with the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Microsoft Research New England also is interacting with Harvard University’s Initiative in Innovative Computing and Berkman Center for Internet and Society, as well as the Janelia Farm Research Campus, a new stand-alone interdisciplinary biology institute founded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Other collaborative projects underway in the lab include the following:

  • The lab already has hosted several prominent economists from MIT and Harvard for its work on aspects of the economics of ad auctions.

  • Another cross-disciplinary team is working on the game theory of matching algorithms, which are widely used to match residents with medical schools, kidney donors with recipients and other complex associations.

  • A prominent physicist from Torino, Italy, has been working with several lab members on a promising new class of network algorithms that could solve a wide variety of problems, from matching ads with advertisers to reconstruction of gene regulatory networks.

  • Another visiting researcher from Boston University has been working with the lab on models of stability for Web search engine crawling, dealing with how to most efficiently process massive amounts of data.

“The addition of Microsoft Research to the New England technology community is a welcome one that should expand and diversify the types of research being conducted here, as well as help to keep the brightest young minds working in the area,” said Rafael Reif, Ph.D., MIT’s provost. “We look forward to working with Microsoft Research for years to come as we identify opportunities for collaboration, and explore the intersection of technology and society.”

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 http://www.research.microsoft.com.

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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