Microsoft Research Blog

The Microsoft Research blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

Wanted: the next generation of data scientists

April 1, 2016 | Posted by Microsoft Research Blog

By Jake Hofman and Justin Rao, Senior Researchers, Microsoft Research New York City

You never know when the smallest seed of an idea will lead to groundbreaking work, work with the potential to have a societal impact. If you’re an undergrad attending college in the New York City area, apply to Microsoft Research’s Data Science Summer School (DS3) for a chance to see if your ideas have that kind of power. Our summer program is in its third year, and we’re even more committed to increasing diversity in computer science. We encourage applications from women, minorities, people with disabilities, and students from resource-limited colleges.

To apply

DS3 is held at the Microsoft Research offices in New York City. The program runs from June 13 to August 5, 2016. Apply online for the 2016 summer session (please note that the application deadline is April 15, 2016).

To apply, you must:

  • be currently enrolled in a NYC-area undergraduate program
  • have taken core undergraduate computer-science classes
  • have some programming experience
  • be interested in attending graduate school

If you’re selected

Each of the eight selected applicants will receive a laptop and a $5,000 stipend. Working with Microsoft Research and you’ll be introduced to the key tools and techniques for working with large data sets. The instruction will focus on how these tools can help solve actual problems, and will provide hands-on experience with real-world data, which is often far messier than the prepackaged data sets typically used in college courses.

The first four weeks of the program will introduce practical tools for acquiring and interacting with data from online sources, methods from applied statistics for exploring data, and simple but effective tools from machine learning for modeling data. This will include scripting on the command line and statistical modeling in R. The format will be a morning lecture and discussion followed by group and individual lab work in the afternoon.

The next four weeks will focus on two group research projects with mentor check-ins. You’ll learn to apply technical tools to answer substantive scientific questions, ones that you’re interested in answering, and each group will share its findings by producing a technical report, a demonstration, or both.

The program ends with a banquet where your work is celebrated and seen by leading members of the New York tech community.

What else is in it for you?

You get the stipend, the laptop, expert instruction, and mentorship, but having the course and one of the group research projects can also open doors in the future, increasing the success of your graduate school and research job applications.

You also get to work on meaningful applications of data science. Project groups from the last two years used data science to examine social issues such as New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy and the cost of its public schools.

High-caliber work comes out of the course, and highly visible recognition can come with it: Past summer school projects have been accepted to the 2014 KDD Workshop on Data Science for Social Good and 2015 Conference for Digital Experimentation, standing side by side with work by industry veterans.

Why we do it

We think data science holds the key to solving some of the big problems our world faces. We want you to see how creative computer science research can be. We want to show you the energy of a real-life research lab—so different from the experience of reading about it in a course text book. We want a chance to show eight people like you that this field is exciting, rewarding, and open to everyone.

“There were 80 people in the room, half of the people with PhDs, and they were listening to us, eight undergraduate students.”

“Through this process, I’ve found how much I truly enjoy research and the research process, and it’s motivated me to pursue the field professionally”

“Working on this project was very satisfactory experience because our work can have a real impact in the city that we live in.”

Learn more

Contact us

You can reach us by email at for more information.