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PhD students convene in Cambridge for 2013 Summer School

August 2, 2013 | By Microsoft blog editor

Sixty students from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa participated in the 2013 PhD Summer School at Microsoft Research Cambridge.
Sixty students from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa participated in the 2013 PhD Summer School at Microsoft Research Cambridge.

The beginning of July is always a special time of year at Microsoft Research Cambridge as we welcome PhD students to our annual PhD Summer School. We began our eighth Microsoft Research PhD Summer School with a traditional afternoon tea served at Selwyn College—one of the 31 University of Cambridge Colleges—which also accommodated students for the week. PhD students from across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa joined us for a week filled with learning, networking, and mentorship in our new lab building, which opened just a few months ago.
Andy Gordon (middle) with students from the University of Edinburgh, from left to right: Jelte Mense, Anastasis Georgoulas, Miltiadis Allamanis, and Jinli Hu.“The School was an exciting showcase of research by Microsoft staff and the students themselves, and provided training in key research skills,” says Andy Gordon, co-manager of our Programming Principles and Tools group and part-time professor at University of Edinburgh. “We were especially delighted to welcome the first cohort of PhD students in the Joint Initiative between the University of Edinburgh and Microsoft Research.”

This year’s diverse student body included 20 Microsoft Research PhD Scholars, as well as students from Max Planck Institutes in Germany, the Cambridge Computer Lab, and students associated with Microsoft Research’s collaborative research institutes: BSC-Microsoft Research Centre, Microsoft Research-Inria Joint Centre, and Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Labs in Egypt, Germany, and Israel.

The technical agenda included a stimulating mix of talks and hands-on demos and poster sessions. Our research talks covered the wide spectrum of work we are conducting across the lab, including environmental science (“Modelling All Life on Earth. Yes, Really!”), computational biology (“Software for Programming Cells”), and cloud computing (“Cloud Computing—Big Data and Beyond”).

As in previous years, we complemented our research talks with a range of personal development talks. These included the all-time favorites, “How to Write a Great Research Paper” and “How to Give a Great Research Talk” by Simon Peyton Jones and “A Rough Guide to Being an Entrepreneur” by Raspberry Pi co-founder Jack Lang, as well as talks on “Strategic Thinking for Researchers” and “Intellectual Property at Microsoft”.

During the DemoFest, Microsoft researcher Lucas Bordeaux demonstrated his newest research project to the PhD students.The Thursday afternoon keynote was a special highlight for the students: Christopher Bishop presented “Machine Learning: the Future of Computing?”, which was followed by a DemoFest where Microsoft researchers demonstrated their newest research projects to the students, who had the opportunity to try out new technologies and ask questions. The day ended with drinks in the sunshine and a formal dinner at Jesus College, where a crew of Microsoft staff, including laboratory director Andrew Blake and a number of Microsoft researchers, joined the students.

But, we weren’t the only presenters at this year’s Summer School. PhD students displayed their research to dozens of Microsoft researchers during the three lunchtime poster sessions. They received valuable feedback on their research and Sue Duraikan of Duraikan Training provided targeted poster training, giving individual as well as group feedback with special guidance for non-native speakers.

Cambridge Computer Lab PhD student Andre Ribeiro presents his poster to laboratory director Andrew Blake.Cambridge Computer Lab PhD student Andre Ribeiro presents his poster to laboratory director Andrew Blake.

We also engaged the students in practical work. Students had the choice between a Windows Azure tutorial and a .NET Gadgeteer workshop. About 25 students participated in a .NET Gadgeteer hackathon and the best project by Istvan Haller from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam was rewarded with a hardware gift.

During the week, we hosted a number of social events to give students and staff a chance to relax, socialize, and network. Some of the students used the opportunity to visit the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London, where Microsoft researchers presented the Technology for Nature exhibition.

After five busy days, we said goodbye to the Summer School class of 2013. We were pleased to receive positive feedback reflecting the students’ appreciation:

  • “Great experience, high quality talks, and great research!”
  • “Very friendly and welcoming. Felt right at home and had fun! The best thing is that the Microsoft team knows how to treat PhD students as researchers that matter.”

Microsoft Cambridge management and staff were equally positive about the School’s outcome: “The 2013 PhD Summer School seems to have been a wonderful success,” Andrew Blake comments. “It has brought together around 60 research students who have shown us some of the very exciting work they engaged on, and it is clear that the next generation of researchers in computer science and related areas is full of ideas and promise for the future.”

Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA

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