Higher Education Researchers Meet at Microsoft Summit

Bill Gates gave the opening keynote Monday at Microsoft Research's 6th annual Faculty Summit, and participated in an exclusive Q&A along with Rick Rashid, senior VP of Microsoft Research and Sailesh Chutani, director of Microsoft University Relations. Nearly 400 faculty invited from 135 higher education institutions in 20 countries met on Microsoft1s Redmond campus for the full event August 2-5.

"[I]t's hard to think of a domain that's going to change the world one 100th as much as advanced software will in the decades ahead," Gates told attendees at Monday morning's keynote. "…I hope a lot comes out of the conference in terms of the work we can do together to really show how magic software is and how it can improve the world."

The summit is a regular part of a Microsoft Research University Relations Program that was created to engage universities in cutting-edge research, with major emphasis on the emerging computing environment, transforming science by computing, and advancing the computer science curriculum. Besides the annual Faculty Summit, the program partners with the academic community on numerous research initiatives through an RFP process, sponsorship of more than a dozen academic conferences, and a New Faculty Award program recognizing promising early-career faculty.

Microsoft has funded more than $100 million for these initiatives over the past three years alone. The funding is not for operational support; rather the program is designed to be a catalyst for innovation. "There's a significant value in mutually beneficial intellectual engagement," Rick Rashid, senior vice president for Microsoft Research told Syllabus. "We can take advantage of the technical expertise we have [at Microsoft and within higher education] along with some financial resources to make key things happen, whether it's creating new curriculum, bringing better people into the field, supporting faculty, or creating platforms that allow the best technology to get into the academic community."

Several project teams and Microsoft Research staff presented sessions at the summit, representing current research initiatives and programs in areas as diverse as wireless sensor networks, Web services architecture for online labs, grid computing, interactive photos and video, and gender equity in IT.

A Demo Fest allowed close-up, hands-on interactions with the technologies, including an ambitious group of iCampus projects from MIT, a 3D sketching tool from the University of Minnesota, and advanced classroom presentation software developed by a University of Washington professor-to mention just a few. For more information, see http://research.microsoft.com/collaboration/university/.

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