Microsoft has awarded this year's Research Faculty Fellowship to eight researchers who will receive grants up to $200,000 (£120,000) each.
The project is funded with a total of $1.4 million each year. The chosen fellows can use the money at their discretion. "There are no strings attached," several of them said.
They can, for example, use the money to hire students to their research teams, buy equipment or fund new projects. In addition, Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows can make use of other Microsoft resources such as software or the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from Microsoft research.
Each fellow had to pass a multi-level selection process. More than 100 reviewers from Microsoft and subject matter experts worldwide reviewed the applications. Eighteen applicants were elected into the final round, which included in-person interviews by a panel of Microsoft Research executives and researchers, as well as faculty members from US universities. Only one applicant per university may enter the application process. Nominees must be faculty members in the first, second or third year of their first faculty appointment.
According to Microsoft the selection criteria include not only the capability to pursue cutting edge research, but also personal leadership and the ability to communicate complex concepts. Relevance of the nominees' work to the goals of Microsoft Research is another selection criterion. The company said it was looking for researchers "who have the potential to make a profound impact on the field of computing in their research disciplines."
Microsoft started the programme in 2005. So far 40 academic researchers have been elected as Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows. This year researchers from four regions including Latin America and the Caribbean and Australia and New Zealand applied for the fellowship.
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