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The Microsoft Research blog provides in-depth views and perspectives from our researchers, scientists and engineers, plus information about noteworthy events and conferences, scholarships, and fellowships designed for academic and scientific communities.

Give your dissertation a boost with a grant from Microsoft Research

February 15, 2018 | By Meredith Ringel Morris, Principal Researcher and Research Manager

Need funding to clear a hurdle in the final stages of your dissertation research? Microsoft Research is offering grants of up to US $25,000 to help a select group of doctoral students cross the finish line and enter the workforce.

The Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant is for PhD students at U.S. and Canadian universities from underrepresented groups in computing, including women, African-Americans/Blacks, Latinos, American Indians/Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and/or people with disabilities.

The program is rooted in organizational management research that shows diverse teams come up with ideas and solutions to problems that more homogenous teams miss, which translates to benefits for industry as well as society. In addition, the technology industry has a shortage of computer scientists. The dissertation grant aims to help deepen and diversify the technology talent pool.

The grant program targets doctoral students in at least the fourth year of their studies. Students at this later stage of their doctoral work have a sufficiently concrete research plan to articulate specific funding needs. Earlier stage doctoral students should consider the Microsoft Research PhD Fellowship Program. I’m also pleased to announced that Microsoft Research is increasing the amount of the research grants up to $25,000 (the limit was up to $20,000 per grant in the program’s first year). We hope that this increase allows the award to have a greater impact on recipients’ research and career development.

In addition to the requested funds, we provide the dissertation grant recipients travel and lodging support to attend a two-day workshop at Microsoft’s research lab in Redmond, Washington, in the autumn. During the workshop, the students will meet with researchers in their area of expertise and with the lab’s senior leadership. The recipients also have an opportunity to present their findings to a panel of Microsoft researchers who provide feedback on the research and how to talk about it most effectively during their post-PhD job search process.

Students interested in applying for the Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant should submit a description of their dissertation research as well as a budget that details the amount and purpose of the requested funds. Examples from 2017 grant recipients include:

  • Paula Mate from Indiana University Bloomington who received funds to attend a healthcare conference in Mozambique to present her research results on the challenge of technology adoption in the country’s healthcare system.
  • Martez Mott from the University of Washington who received a stipend that allowed him to focus on only finishing his dissertation on increasing the accessibility of touch-input computing instead of doing an extra teaching assistant job.
  • César Torres from the University of California, Berkeley, who received funds to purchase hardware for his research in creative expression.
  • Esha Ghosh from Brown University, who purchased Azure cloud computing resources to facilitate her research on efficient and secure cloud systems.

In each of these cases, the doctoral students’ applications included a specific funding need to achieve their research goals. This year’s applications are due by March 30, with supporting reference letters by April 16. The proposals will be reviewed by Microsoft Research experts in their respective fields, looking at the scientific merit and impact of the research to be supported by the grant. We will notify winners by June 30.

Detailed information about the award, as well as the application form, can be found on the official website for the Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant.


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