Microsoft Research New England Opening


NewEnglandOpening_190Microsoft Research New England is Microsoft’s sixth basic research lab worldwide, pursues interdisciplinary collaborations between core computer scientists and social scientists to explore how computing and online experiences will evolve. The lab’s opening symposium, held September 22, 2008, inaugurated a long-term partnership with institutions in a uniquely dynamic research environment.

Hello and Welcome

jennifer_chayes_73_73“Microsoft has a long-standing and deep commitment to collaborate with the broader research community and advance the state of the art across many areas of computing research. The establishment of the New England lab opens up a new chapter for Microsoft to work with you to pursue new interdisciplinary areas of research that bring together core computer scientists and social scientists to better understand, model, and enable computing and online experiences of the future.”

Jennifer Chayes, Managing Director, Microsoft Research New England

Read the full text of Jennifer's welcome letter

jennifer_chayes_2008Thank you for joining us today to inaugurate Microsoft Corp.’s newest research lab, bringing the total to six labs Microsoft Research operates worldwide. I am so excited to be joining the research community in the New England area, which I think is one of the most vibrant areas in the world, and to be working hand-in-hand with so many of you to help advance the frontiers of research and learning.

Microsoft has a long-standing and deep commitment to collaborate with the broader research community and advance the state of the art across many areas of computing research. The establishment of the New England lab opens up a new chapter for Microsoft to work with you to pursue new interdisciplinary areas of research that bring together core computer scientists and social scientists to better understand, model, and enable computing and online experiences of the future.

When Microsoft first announced its plans to establish a research lab in the New England area, I said we wanted to create new opportunities for some of the world’s leading researchers and students to pursue their passions, and we wanted to collaborate with some of the premier academic institutions in the area. With your support, we’ve made a great start. I am happy to announce that we now have in place a core team of distinguished researchers, postdocs, visiting researchers and interns, which gives us the critical mass needed to begin our work in earnest. This team has begun to make important connections within some of the great research institutions in the area

I am excited about the opportunity today’s event provides for our new team to meet so many of you in what I hope will be the first of many interactions to come.

I want to extend a special thanks to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graciously hosting our opening symposium. I appreciate your generosity today, as well as the support you’ve shown for us since Microsoft first announced its plans to open a lab in your neighborhood.

Thanks to all of you for participating in today’s symposium. We are honored to be joining your ranks in the New England area, and we look forward to partnering with you and your colleagues in the Eastern United States as well as around the globe to continue to foster innovative research, advance education, and promote science and engineering.


Jennifer Chayes, Managing Director, Microsoft Research New England

Opening Symposium


On Sept. 22, 2008, Microsoft Research New England conducted an inaugural symposium in Cambridge, Mass., hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to open an extensive collaboration with leading research institutions in the region. The symposium included introductions to Microsoft Research and its New England lab, discussed the possibilities inherent in interdisciplinary research projects, and examined some of the ways that computing will enhance the sciences of tomorrow.

Windows Media Player required to watch the video of the session.


9:00 AM Registration Opens, Continental Breakfast

Kirsch Auditorium

10:10 AM Introducing Massachusetts Institute of Technology Provost

Victor Zue, Director of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

10:15 AM Welcoming Remarks from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (video)

Rafael Reif, Provost, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

10:30 AM Microsoft Research Overview (video)

Rick Rashid, Senior Vice President, Microsoft Research

Rick Rashid will give an overview of Microsoft Research, including its vision and goals and the impact that research has had on the state of the art and to computing. He will also discuss the role of basic research in industry and the strong partnerships between industry and academic research.

11:00 AM Microsoft Research New England Overview (video)

Jennifer Chayes, Managing Director, Microsoft Research New England

Jennifer Chayes will give an overview of the visions and goals of Microsoft Research New England, highlighting in particular interdisciplinary research and collaboration with the academic community.

11:15 AM Interdisciplinary Research Panel Discussion (video)

David Campbell, Provost, Boston University
Jennifer Chayes, Managing Director, Microsoft Research New England
Steve Hyman, Provost, Harvard University
Subra Suresh, Dean of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Jeannette Wing, Assistant Director Computer and Information Science and Engineering, National Science Foundation

Research is becoming less and less constrained by traditional barriers, such as those between different departments or research specializations, between pure and applied research, or between academic and industrial research. This panel will discuss some exciting areas in which several disciplines are joining forces, as well as what the obstacles are to cross-disciplinary work and how universities and research labs can encourage it.

12:15 PM Lunch

1:45 PM (Theoretical) Computer Science Is Everywhere (video)

Erik Demaine, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Theoretical computer science, and the algorithmic way of thinking, transcends our traditional boundaries. I believe that algorithms are relevant to every discipline of study, and will give eclectic examples from the arts and sciences to business and society. The examples span the spectrum from serious topics like protein folding and decoding Inka khipu to fun topics like juggling and magic.

2:30 PM Market Design in Theory and Practice: Auctions for Sponsored Links in Online Search (video)

Susan Athey, Professor of Economics, Harvard University

The revenue generated by advertising provides incentives for online publishers to create high-quality content.The problem of allocating advertisements to online page views is extraordinarily complex.On search engines, millions of unique phrases are entered by users each month, and hundreds of thousands of advertisers would like to place advertisements there. As with the Yellow Pages, advertisements are an important source of information for consumers.Over the past ten years, the market for search advertising evolved into a real-time auction that shares some features with an “ideal” auction that theory predicts would be effective.The design of the auction affects the quality of matching of advertisements to consumers, the search costs expended by consumers, the profit to the advertisers, and the extraction of revenue by the search engine. Over time, search engines have become increasingly sophisticated in pricing, and the design has become increasingly complex, with real-world experiences confirming existing theory and motivating new theory.A vibrant cross-disciplinary subfield surrounding the design of these auctions has emerged, combining theory, empirical analysis, field experiments, and the design of algorithms.

3:15 PM Break

3:45 PM Understanding Socio-Technical Phenomena in a Web2.0 Era (video)

danah boyd, Fellow, Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Web2.0 signals an iteration in Internet culture, shaped by changes in technology, entrepreneurism, and social practices. Beneath the buzzwords that flutter around Web2.0, people are experiencing a radical reworking of social media. Networked public spaces that once catered to communities of interest are now being leveraged by people of all ages to connect with people they already know. Social network sites like MySpace and Facebook enable people to map out their social networks in order to create public spaces for interaction. People can use social media to vocalize their thoughts, although having a blog or video feed doesn’t guarantee having an audience. Tagging platforms allow people to find, organize and share content in entirely new ways. Mass collaborative projects like Wikipedia allow people to collectively create valuable cultural artifacts. These are but a few examples of Web2.0.

Getting to the core of technologically-mediated phenomena requires understanding the interplay between everyday practices, social structures, culture, and technology. In this talk, I will map out some of what’s currently taking place, offer a framework for understanding these phenomena, and discuss strategies for researching emergent practices.

4:30 PM Designing Experience/The Experience of Design (video)

Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research

I have a personal mantra:

Ultimately, we are deluding ourselves if we think that the products that we design are the “things” that we sell, rather than the individual, social and cultural experience that they engender, and the value and impact that they have. Design that ignores this is not worthy of the name.

If I am right and that the real outcome of the exercise is the experience, then does it not make sense that the quality of that experience be front and centre in the conceptualization, design, and implementation of any product or service? Yet, the vast majority of technology-based products and services stand as testament that this is currently not the case. Unless we consciously take steps to change this situation, we risk losing the potential benefits that such products and services were intended to deliver. Furthermore, as we go further and further down the path of ubiquitous computing, the consequences of not doing so will become ever more serious.

Consequently, the intent of this talk is to address the nature of design, and how design thinking and practice can be integrated into our processes, and help address this situation. From the perspective of integration, we describe a process which is based on three interdependent and equally important pillars that must drive everything from day one: design, technology and business. The argument made is that if there is not a comparable investment, competence, and degree of innovation in each, from the start, then the endeavour will be seriously jeopardized.

In discussing this, we then drill down a bit deeper into what we mean by design. The argument made here is that, despite frequent claims to the contrary, everyone is not a designer; rather, design is a distinct profession, with a distinct practice, which is just as specialized and essential as engineering, for example.

The historian Melvin Kranzberg stated that technology is not good, it is not bad, but nor is it neutral. The whole point of this talk is to help us land more firmly and consistently on the positive side of the equation through an appropriate focus on users and experience through an improved appreciation of the role of design.

5:15 PM The Changing Role of Research Universities and Industrial and National Laboratories in the 21st Century (video)

Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

The intimate relationship between basic research and application has been highlighted ever since the invention of the transistor in 1947, the laser in 1958 and the subsequent spawning of the computer and communications revolution which has so changed our lives. Such advances and discoveries were made in major industrial research laboratories—Bell Labs, IBM, RCA and others. Today many of these industrial laboratories are in decline due to changes in the regulatory environment and global economic competition.

In this talk I will examine some of the frontiers in technology and emerging societal and policy issues. My talk will be colored by my own experiences at Bell Labs and subsequently at a major U.S. national laboratory (Sandia) and at universities (University of California at Santa Barbara and Harvard).

To position ourselves for the future, we must find new ways of breaking disciplinary boundaries in academia. The focus provided by applications and the role of interdisciplinary research centers will be examined. For example, in my own fields the reductionist approach inherent in nanoscience must be connected with the world of complex systems.

Integrative approaches to science and technology will become more the norm if we are to address societal challenges in areas from electronic commerce to energy to environment to human health. Translating research discoveries into practice is a key challenge for industrial R & D laboratories and research universities. The need to develop new models for university-industry collaboration and to develop the appropriate intellectual capital will be discussed.

5:45 PM Closing Remarks

Christian Borgs, Deputy Managing Director, Microsoft Research New England
Victor Zue, Director of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6:00 PM – 8:00PM Microsoft Research Reception

Microsoft Research New England, One Memorial Drive, 14th floor

Feature Stories

Innovation Inquiries: The Birth of a Research Lab

By Rob KniesSeptember 22, 2008 10:00 AM PT

Since Microsoft Research New England was announced on Feb. 4, Jennifer Chayes, managing director of the lab, based in Cambridge, Mass., has been hard at work along with her deputy managing director, Christian Borgs. Chayes and Borgs moved east from Redmond facing a prodigious challenge: Offices had to be planned and prepared, relationships with the Boston-area academic community had to be forged, and researchers and associates had to be located and secured. The facility, the newest of Microsoft Research’s six labs worldwide, is focused on new, interdisciplinary research that combines computer scientists and social scientists to explore computing and online advances the future will bring, and as they embarked on this new undertaking, the right organizational direction needed to be set.

In February, Chayes and Borgs discussed their plans for their new venture. In the days before the lab’s official coming-out party, the Microsoft Research New England Opening Symposium, to be held Sept. 22 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Chayes found a few minutes in her busy schedule to outline the progress made thus far:

Q: How’s life in New England?

Chayes: Life in New England is great. I grew up on the East Coast, and I’ve lived in Cambridge before, so in many ways, it’s like coming home. Of course, I miss my friends and colleagues in Seattle―and the glorious Seattle summers.

Q: How is working on the East Coast different from working in Redmond?jennifer_chayes_2008Chayes: For me, the biggest difference has been our proximity to universities. We are adjacent to MIT, a seven-minute subway ride from Harvard, and a ten-minute drive from Boston University. We’re constantly having visits from faculty and students, both for seminars and for collaborations. We also frequently run over to see our academic colleagues. It’s led to a tremendously rich and exciting intellectual environment.Q: How are the new offices working out?

Chayes: The new office space is fantastic. We have glorious views of the Charles River and the Boston skyline, which serve as inspiration for the nonstop collaboration which occurs in that room. Amazingly enough, we’ve already occupied essentially all the space that’s been built for us, and we are doubling up in some offices. It’s time for more space!

Q: Who’s working with you at the lab at this point?

Chayes: Since the announcement of the lab, we’ve hired two new permanent researchers, seven new post-docs, seven interns, and a large number of visiting researchers―and we’ve had dozens of official faculty visitors since the lab opened in July.

All this is in addition to those of us who were already with Microsoft Research: Christian Borgs, Henry Cohn, Butler Lampson, and me.

The two new permanent researchers we hired are Adam Kalai and Yael Tauman Kalai. Adam is a game theorist and learning theorist who works on problems related to economics, and Yael is a cryptographer. They had visited Microsoft Research Redmond a couple of years ago, so we already had strong research ties to them. Since joining the lab, they have engaged deeply with both Microsoft Research and the nearby universities.

Q: What is driving Microsoft Research New England’s focus on interdisciplinary research?

Chayes: I believe this is the time, and Cambridge is the ideal place, for a focus on interdisciplinary research between computer science and many other disciplines―economics, sociology and ethnography, psychology, and biology.

With the vast amounts of data now available, many previously qualitative sciences have become much more quantitative. There is no way to deal with all this data without developing ingenious algorithms that take advantage of both the knowledge of these disciplines and the new developments in theoretical computer science and other hard sciences, such as physics and mathematics.

At the same time, technology and our business models have moved online, which gives us added incentive to understand and facilitate the online experience through the development of new algorithms incorporating insights from the social sciences.

Q: I understand you’ve been participating in several symposiums. How have those gone?

Chayes: Our lab has been very lucky to find great partners and colleagues in the local area. We already have two joint seminars with MIT. The first is the longstanding Friday-morning cryptography seminar, which has been held for decades at MIT. It is now a joint Microsoft Research-MIT seminar that alternates between the two institutions.

The second is a seminar with LIDS, the Laboratory of Information and Decision Sciences at MIT, which has faculty from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, as well as other departments. Again, the seminars alternate between our lab and MIT.

Finally, we have our own Microsoft Research seminar, which was held twice a week during the summer and is now being held once a week during the academic year. It is very widely attended by local faculty and students, who make up over half of our audience.

The hallmark of our Microsoft Research and joint seminars is that they are very interactive―the audience asks questions almost constantly, which leads to very lively seminars!

Q: Has this been as exciting as you thought it would be?

The lab has exceeded my expectations―which were very high. It is filled with incredibly interesting people doing phenomenal research of a truly interdisciplinary nature. The reception we have received in the Boston/Cambridge area has been beyond my wildest dreams.

As I recently told [Microsoft Research Senior Vice President] Rick Rashid, I feel that there’s been a huge element of good fortune here. Yes, we’ve worked hard to build the lab. But it’s impossible to guarantee interactions like this. It feels as if the stars have truly aligned for us!

Microsoft Research New England's Focus: Research Relationships

On Feb. 4, Microsoft Research unveiled its latest lab, to be called Microsoft Research New England and to be based in Cambridge, Mass., in the midst of the Boston region’s bustling academic environment. Jennifer Chayes will serve as managing director of the lab, with her husband and longtime professional collaborator, Christian Borgs, as deputy managing director, though, given the nature of their relationship, the roles could prove a bit more nuanced than the titles might indicate. The pair, until now based at Microsoft Research Redmond, have established an alliance unique in industrial research, easygoing and playful, yet laser-focused on their shared research agenda. A native of White Plains, N.Y., Chayes, 51, happily proclaims, “I’m proud to be a member of the AARP!” Borgs, 50, of Düsseldorf, Germany, smilingly recalls that, together, the couple recently celebrated “one hundred years of life.” But when a recent discussion turned to their latest venture, they made it clear that their plan for success is no laughing matter:

Q: Why New England, and why now?

Christian Borgs: New England is a prime location on the East Coast. If you want to hire talent, you want to go where the talent is located. It makes a lot of sense that we should have a research lab on the East Coast. New England has Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and lots of other universities. It is definitely a center of academic research.

Jennifer Chayes: Microsoft is a global company, and we are becoming a more distributed company. We have more remote locations, and it just seemed like the right time for Microsoft to open a research lab on the East Coast. There’s a lot of talent we want to hire on the East Coast. There are phenomenal universities with which we want to interact. And this is especially true in certain fields of research as we move more and more toward the online world. This is the time to be doing that kind of research.

Q: Starting a new research lab is a rare opportunity. You both must be extremely excited.chayes_borgsJennifer Chayes and Christian Borgs constitute the leadership team for Microsoft Research New England, the organization’s sixth research lab.Chayes: We are incredibly thrilled. When you do research for a long time, you have visions of where you think research is moving, and being able to head up a lab, we can actually try to realize some of those visions.

First, we hope to create a center for fantastic interdisciplinary research. Many academic fields are siloed now, and that’s getting in the way of doing the research that needs to be done. A research environment like we can create at Microsoft Research will allow incredible interaction across disciplines. That’s a big part of our research vision; we want to combine core computer science, especially the more mathematical and theoretical aspects of it, with the social sciences, and we want to do it in an environment in which we won’t just have researchers doing fantastic research side-by-side, but they also will be helping to create new fields at the boundary of computer science and the social sciences.

Borgs: I, too, am excited about building this lab in the incredible Boston-Cambridge area. But I also find it very exciting that Microsoft now will have a lab which is headed by a woman. This sets an example for the whole industry, creating a role model for other women and showing that there do exist leadership roles up to even the leader of a whole research lab.

That should be very exciting for younger women, both in Microsoft and outside, even to teenage girls, to see that there are women researchers at all levels.

Q: At first glance, the social sciences wouldn’t seem a natural area for Microsoft to be investigating, but clearly you have decided that it is. Why?

Chayes: If you look at where the computing experience is headed, where the online experience is headed, and where Microsoft’s business is headed, we should be developing expertise in economics so that we understand how people value things, in sociology so that we understand how people interact with one another, in psychology so that we understand what makes people do what they do, and all of this in the online context. If we’re going to help build the social networks of tomorrow, if we’re going to come up with new business models so that we can monetize them, if we are going to help to come up with productivity software so that people can collaborate online, we need to understand more about people: who they are, how they value things, and how they interact with each other.

Borgs: I think there is a traditional separation between engineering and business strategies. But in the online world, where things happen so fast, you can’t really design your product without thinking about what business strategy you have. Suddenly, the interaction between social sciences, in particular economics, and the technology you want to develop becomes much closer, so it becomes much more important for Microsoft to not separate these things, because the business can’t really decide about the strategy without seeing the technology which is developing, and the other way around. Otherwise, you develop a technology that is cool but can’t be monetized, or you develop a business strategy without cool technology behind it. This interaction of strategy and technology makes it important for Microsoft to think about the social aspects of the products we will create.

Chayes: In a technical sense, there is a field being studied much more now in computer-science departments, algorithmic game theory, which is a way of figuring out what to do when you have many self-interested parties interacting with one another, such as people on a social network or advertisers who are paying us to match their ads with keywords. The science behind that is computer science and economics, and the outcome is new business models for us and better online experiences for our customers.

Q: What initial goals have you set for the lab?

Borgs: Our initial goals can be described on two levels. One is to interact with the local university community and with our local product groups. The other is to advance the state of the art in these joint areas of algorithms and social sciences.

Q: Please discuss your professional backgrounds and how they have prepared you to create and operate a new research lab.

Chayes: My background is extremely varied. It’s a walk through many branches of science—not quite a random walk! I started as a biology undergraduate. I was in graduate school in physics—incidentally, with Nathan Myhrvold [former Microsoft chief technology officer who helped push for the creation of Microsoft Research]; we were classmates in a class of only 20 people. Then I was a professor of mathematics. And for over 10 years now, I’ve been doing computer science at Microsoft, while co-managing the Theory Group with Christian and recently also being the research-area manager for both Theory and Cryptography. So I believe I’m well prepared to do interdisciplinary work and to create an environment in which this type of work will thrive.

Also, during the past 10 years, I’ve learned how Microsoft manages research. We’ve been very, very lucky to be in Microsoft Research and have the vision and the philosophy of Rick Rashid [Microsoft Research senior vice president], that you hire great people and advance the state of the art. I think we’ve really absorbed that.

Borgs: My background is similarly diverse. I started off as an experimental physicist as an undergraduate, then went into theoretical physics and eventually wrote my Ph.D. in mathematical physics. I became a professor of physics and got a bit of management experience, because in Germany, if you are a full professor, you get a little group associated with it. Then I started to look at problems at the boundary of physics and computer science, which was one of the reasons why Nathan hired the two of us. I’ve been working here on problems in computer science, turning toward algorithms, thinking about networks, which turned out to be very useful when we turned our focus to search and advertisement. This type of background has prepared me to lead an interdisciplinary lab.

In addition, I bring some international experience. I started in Munich, I studied in Paris, I was in Zürich as a post-doc, and I’ve been living in the U.S. for 11 years. I think we together bring quite a diverse background to head this new lab.

Q: What’s first on the agenda?

Chayes: First, we have to start hiring great people. In certain fields, in the fields that we know better, we already have wish lists in our heads, and we’re going to start to operate on those wish lists. In other areas, in which we are relative novices, we have already sought out the counsel of some experts who are going to introduce us to those communities so that we can learn who the great people are in those areas. There are many great people, but who among the great people do we think could bring the most to Microsoft?

There are a lot of other things that have to be done.

Borgs: For example, we have to create a space. Microsoft has rented a few floors in a building in Cambridge, Mass. We have to build our space. And we need to build it in a way that facilitates interdisciplinary research.

Chayes: Christian recently flew to our Silicon Valley lab to spend a couple of hours looking at their new space. Microsoft Research in Redmond has also just built this great new building. In these new buildings, Microsoft Research provides spaces and technologies that encourage interaction and collaboration. During the next few months, we will be working with architects and our facilities people to build our Cambridge space to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, drawing on the experience gained from the new buildings in our Silicon Valley and Redmond labs.

We also want to start to interact with the universities in the area. Last week, the two of us met with some deans and provosts from universities in the Boston-Cambridge area, and we want to start building those relationships as soon as we can. Some of them will build on our personal relationships with scientists whom we already know at these universities, but we also want to build institutional relationships, because we think that that will benefit Microsoft, benefit the universities, and make the lab a very exciting place.

Borgs: Another relationship we are starting to build is with the Microsoft people already in the area. We have started talking with Reed Sturtevant, who heads the new Microsoft Concept Development Center, an incubation center in Cambridge. We also want to build relationships with the people in the local companies Microsoft recently has acquired or is in the process of acquiring—Groove, SoftGrid, and FAST. That will be very important.

Q: How is starting a new lab going to affect your ability to do continued research on your own?

Borgs: When we were in the Boston-Cambridge region last week, talking to universities, describing our plan for the new lab …

Chayes: … and saying that we wanted to continue doing research …

Borgs: … we were mentioning that we definitely want to continue doing research, want to be, ourselves, at the boundary of these areas, because, as always in research, you don’t want to tell people what to do. That’s not how research works.

How do you get people to interact? You set an example. You start to collaborate across boundaries. This is very important for us to do ourselves, which means we need time for that. Everybody has pointed out that we should delegate part of the tactical running of the lab. Obviously, the directors have to do the strategic running of the lab, but the tactical running of the lab we will have to delegate, find staff who can do that, so that we have some space left to do our own research.

Chayes: The other way that we’ll continue to do research is by working 16 hours a day, which we do anyway. Hopefully, we’ll only spend 8 or 10 hours a day on strategy for the lab, and that will still leave 6 to 8 hours a day for research.

Q: Now, there’s a plan!

Chayes: Right, and we’ll do research as we eat. (Laughter.)

Q: How big do you see the lab becoming? Have you set hiring targets or numbers?

Borgs: At this point, it’s hard to say how big the lab will become. Across all of Microsoft Research, we want to have the best and brightest researchers working for us. With that high bar, finding and hiring people have always been our constraint on growth, rather than any particular numerical target. It may take a while for the lab to grow, or it might go fast. Either way is fine with us as long as we’re hiring the best people.

Chayes: A second aspect is that our lab will have somewhat of the quality of an institute, in which we have many post-docs and sabbatical visitors from universities, short-term visiting professors, and interns. On any given day, it may be that up to two-thirds of the researchers are not part of the permanent research staff.

Microsoft has always derived tremendous value from these research visitors. They spend a bit of time with us and then go back to universities really understanding Microsoft and the problems we care about. They give these problems to their students. They later send their students to us and to product groups at Microsoft. We can use this lab to allow people at universities to experience how wonderful Microsoft is, to understand the problems we’re trying to tackle, and to help us to tackle those problems.

Q: Finally, as a married couple, how do you make your personal and professional relationships work, and how will that derive to the benefit of the new lab?

Chayes: We’re both passionate about our work, and we work many hours per day. It would be very hard for me to work 16 hours a day and have a good marriage if I weren’t married to my coworker, who’s also passionate about this same work.

There are two aspects of it. For us, it’s good because we have enough time with each other, and we can also share our enthusiasm with each other. We can strategize together.

Borgs: If necessary, we can play good cop, bad cop.

Chayes: We have a completely trusted colleague so that, when one of us travels, we know that the other one is one of the cofounders of the lab, so our vision will be in place.

Microsoft gets benefit from this because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Borgs: And Microsoft also benefits from it because if I’m going to the beach with my wife, and I’m talking with her about Microsoft Research and our strategy, even on my vacation, Microsoft derives benefit, which would not be the case if my wife worked at a university.

Chayes: This is an incredible company, and it’s really forward-looking, investing in basic research when a lot of other companies and government agencies are cutting back on their investments in basic research. It’s a wonderful thing that Microsoft is doing, and it’s also a smart thing. If we look at the investments Microsoft has made in basic research over the past 15 years, lots of them have ended up in products, and lots of them have opened up new fields which will ultimately lead to advances in Microsoft products. But Microsoft does not look for a short-term bottom line; Microsoft invests in research for the long haul, and I think that’s wonderful.

In the News