Chris White is Managing Director, Special Projects. He leads mission-oriented research and software development teams focusing on high risk problems.
Mini bio: Chris has a background in EE, with a PhD in machine learning for speech and language from Johns Hopkins. He was a Fellow at Harvard for graph statistics and machine learning before spending time in the field. He served as chief data officer for DARPA in Afghanistan, and then as country lead with oversight of all battlefield research programs. Upon return, his DARPA programs invested hundreds of millions of dollars into open source software. His work has been applied to countering human trafficking, financial fraud, and terrorism, and has received awards from the White House, Defense, and Treasury departments. In 2016 President Obama awarded him a Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Since coming to Microsoft Research, he’s worked in Special Projects helping build multiple disruptive technologies before becoming Managing Director.
For more about Chris’s background, listen to a Podcast on democratizing data science, or read about a Presidential Award to combat human trafficking, chief data officer activity during wartime, or a special issue profile by Popular Science.
Specialized work at Microsoft has included software and system development for nascent industry and sociotechnical areas. For example, recent work to enable evidence-based policy. For more information about work coming out of Special Projects:
- Creating the technical and industry momentum for Azure to empower telecom operators in the cloud, enabling the launch of a new business Azure for Operators
- Radically experimenting to show underwater datacenters are reliable, practical, and can be sustainably powered; one of the four awarded ideas contributing to Microsoft becoming Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Company of the Year
- Enabling Holoportation and new forms of presence with shared experiences where you can feel like you’re in the same place, now part of mixed reality in Microsoft Mesh
- Expanding security testing from security experts to be part of every build, including cloud services, now a top priority for Azure reliability
- Building low-cost, scalable, programmable AI/machine-learned content analysis to help recommend livestreams, as in eSports, and to protect community users, becoming the foundation of Digital Safety technology at Microsoft
Going forward, focus areas include:
- Research toward societal resilience, including a research initiative building on lessons of the response to Covid-19 and studies in pandemic preparedness towards crisis-response science
- Advancing organizational science using network machine learning given how hybrid work is changing the future of work
- Developing radical strategies for sustainability, including extremely dense data storage in DNA and grid-interactive energy intelligence toward better than net zero carbon
- Working with cities to measure community-level disparities in pollution exposure, starting with a large-scale pilot deployment in Chicago
- Advancing interoperability and user-controlled verifiable clinical information with foundational SMART Health Card technology, starting to enable tamper-proof evidence of vaccination status and relevant healthcare procedures for hundreds of millions of people
- Making our elections more secure and verifiable
- Creating new sensors to change the field for deterring and discovering advanced persistent cyber threats
Before joining Microsoft, Chris was a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where he created and managed DARPA’s leading programs XDATA, Memex, and the Open Catalog. His work has been applied to countering human trafficking, financial fraud, and terrorism. In recognition of this work, Chris received the 2016 Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, and a Department of Treasury Intelligence and Analysis medallion for combatting terrorism financing. Chris also served DARPA as the Agency’s country lead in Afghanistan, where he oversaw DARPA’s portfolio of programs and led data science and analytics efforts. His work was cited in President Obama’s Big Data Report as helping commanders solve operational challenges during the most violent years of the war in Afghanistan. In recognition of this work, he received the Department of Defense Joint Meritorious Unit Award.
Chris’s work has been featured in media outlets including Popular Science, CBS’s 60 Minutes, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone Magazine, TEDx, and Google’s Solve for X. Chris was profiled in a cover feature for the Sept/Oct 2016 issue of Popular Science. Prior to DARPA, Chris was a fellow at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He was a Department of Homeland Security Graduate Fellow and earned a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in electrical engineering, where his research focused on machine learning, statistical methods for large data sets, and human language technology. He earned a BS from Oklahoma State University.
The democratization of data science with Dr. Chris White
Episode 27, June 6, 2018 - When we think of medals, we usually picture them over the pocket of a military hero, not over the pocket protector of a computer scientist. That may be because not many academics end up working with the Department of Defense. But Dr. Chris White, now a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, has, and he’s received several awards for his efforts in fighting terrorism and crime with big data, statistics and machine learning. Today, Dr. White talks about his “problem-first” approach to research, explains the vital importance of making data understandable for everyone, and shares the story of how a one-week detour from academia turned into an extended tour in Afghanistan, a stint at DARPA, and, eventually, a career at Microsoft Research.