By Dr. Meredith Ringel Morris, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research

Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant Program

I am pleased to announce that Microsoft Research is funding a new academic program, the Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant. This grant program offers selected doctoral students doing computing research at U.S. and Canadian universities up to US $20,000 to fund their dissertation work. This program is open to students currently under-represented in the technology sector, including women, people with disabilities, and people who are African-American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, reflecting Microsoft’s commitment to growing the number of diverse students obtaining computing degrees. A key goal of this grant is to broaden participation and diversify the high-tech workforce.

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This grant program targets students in their fourth year or beyond of doctoral studies. Students at this later stage of their doctoral work have a sufficiently concrete research plan that they should be able to articulate specific funding needs. Microsoft Research also offers funding programs for earlier stages of students’ doctoral studies, such as the PhD Fellowship Program, which is open to second- and third-year doctoral students.

Interested students should submit a description of their dissertation research, as well as a budget that details the amount and purpose of requested funds. Since every research project is different, Microsoft is not prescribing how the funds should be spent, but expects to see requests for equipment or data set purchases, compensation for experimental participants, travel for collecting or presenting research results, or student stipends. Proposals will be reviewed by the scientists who work for Microsoft’s global network of research labs, and evaluated based on the technical merit and potential for impact of the dissertation research.

In addition to receiving their grant, awardees will receive additional travel support to attend a two-day mentoring workshop in the autumn at the Microsoft Research Redmond Lab. During this event, grant recipients will meet one-on-one with Microsoft researchers who are doing work in related areas, receive information and advice regarding internship and post-doctoral career opportunities with Microsoft, and hear from the lab’s senior leadership about current scientific efforts at the company. Recipients will also present a talk describing their dissertation research and will receive feedback on their work from a panel of Microsoft researchers.  Attending the Dissertation Grant Workshop is an incredible learning and networking opportunity for the winners.

This year’s grant applications are due by April 7, 2017, with supporting reference letters due by April 24. Winners will be notified 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.

I am excited about this opportunity to recognize and support technical innovation by students from under-represented groups; increasing the pipeline of diverse student talent is an important step toward growing a strong and diverse computing workforce.  I look forward to receiving grant applications for this program’s inaugural year.

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