Microsoft’s new New England research lab

It may seem odd that it’s taken Microsoft so long to decide they should have one of their network of academic-linked research facilities in Cambridge, Mass. Not surprisingly, it’s located very close to MIT!

Microsoft’s own Research website, and MIT’s Technology Review, both profile the new lab (I tagged the TR report in while I got round to writing this piece). I’ve visited Microsoft’s lab in Cambridge, England, which like the new lab is close to an academic faculty but not part of it.

Jennifer Chayes, who will head the new lab, says that the work there will aim “to break through barriers between core computer science and social sciences, and to do fundamental research that can lead to deeper insights and better computing experiences in an increasingly online world”. MIT’s renowned Media Lab has many research projects in this overlap area, and the computer scientists at CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence) and the Sloan Management School’s IT-related business research groups will also without doubt be key links for the new lab.

Microsoft’s website doesn’t yet list the research areas for the new lab in more detail, but her interview in TR gives some pointers. You wouldn’t think that phase transitions in physical systems – and I used to teach those to geologists! – would relate to IT problems, but read the interview and figure out how it matches to resource allocation problems such as multicasting, social networking and recommendation systems.

Microsoft values its researchers as researchers; but what they do has a habit of turning into valuable sources of revenue! The Lab opens in July. Watch this space.

Applying Theory at Microsoft MIT Technology Review, 21 Feb 2008
Microsoft Research New England’s Focus: Research Relationships (Microsoft Research website)
MIT Media Lab
MIT Sloan School Research Centers