Microsoft Research, FUSE Labs Internship Opportunities

FUSE Labs at Microsoft Research is looking for interns for 2013. For these positions, we are looking primarily for graduate students from Computer Science, Information Science, Design, and other multidisciplinary fields with a focus on social computing and social media.

FUSE Labs is a research and development lab at Microsoft Research focused on the design, study, and development of socio-technical systems. We are interested in building systems and studying them critically. Our goals are to contribute to the academic community as well as to invent the next generation of social technologies. Some of the topics that are currently of interest for FUSE Labs are communities of interest, civic media, social computing, hyperlocal media, information visualization, big data, and machine learning applied to social data. That said, we are open to a diversity of methodologies.

Next year, we are planning to have a cohort of interns working collaboratively on a civic media project. The goal of the project is to have meaningful societal impact by developing new tools to empower citizens, such as tools to visualize, aggregate, and enable collaboration among citizens locally and around the world.

The internships are 12-week paid internships in Redmond, Washington. The expected outcome of the internship is a prototype and a publishable scholarly paper for an academic journal or conference such as CHI, CSCW, ICWSM, WWW, and USIT. Interns are expected to collaborate with researchers, interns, and other members of the lab, give short presentations, and contribute to the life of the community. The goals of the internship are to help the intern advance their own career, encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, and contribute to FUSE Labs’ research efforts. There are also opportunities to engage with product groups at Microsoft.

Preference will be given to intern candidates who are interested in public-facing research and have a track record of academic publishing and/or systems building. Interns will benefit most from this opportunity if there are natural opportunities for collaboration with other interns and researchers.

Applicants from universities inside and outside of the United States are welcome to apply.

Application Process

  1. Fill out the online application form. Make sure to indicate that you prefer FUSE Labs and “social media” or “social computing.” You will need to list two recommenders through this form. Make sure your recommenders respond to the request for letters.
  2. Send us an email with the subject “Intern Application” that includes the following four things:
    1. A brief description of your dissertation project.
    2. An article you have written (published or unpublished) that shows your writing skills and interest in this area.
    3. A copy of your CV
    4. A pointer to your website, portfolio, or other online presence (if available).
    5. A short description of 1-3 projects that you might imagine doing as an intern at FUSE Labs.

We will begin considering internship applications on January 10 and consider applications until all internship positions are filled.

Previous Intern Testimonials

“My internship at Microsoft Research surpassed all of my expectations in the best way possible. I spent 12 weeks surrounded by motivated and curious students and researchers who were not only interested in helping me develop an interesting research project, but also interested in helping me develop as a researcher. Everyone I engaged with, from my mentor to team members to our group manager, spent time getting to know me and made me feel like a valued member of the MSR family. At FUSE Labs, I was able to contribute to a number of projects beyond my own intern project, all of which gave me valuable experience working with different types of groups within MSR (design, development). I left my internship with a deep respect for the research and researchers at Microsoft Research, as well as a number of new friends.” Behzod Sirjani, PhD student at the School of Communication at Northwestern University

“The summer I spent at Microsoft Research was one of the best grad school experiences I have undertaken: fun, challenging and rewarding. As someone with a computer science background with interests in big data and social media, this internship gave me an opportunity to explore the vast data sources that Microsoft Research maintains. More importantly, the experience with MSR helped me build connections with word-class scholars and fellow interns with different backgrounds. Overall, it was a terrific experience for me as a researcher as well as a thinker.” Yuheng Hu, PhD student of Computer Science at Arizona State University

FUSE Labs is an excellent place to experience the intersection of design, research, and social computing. I had the great opportunity to collaborate with a talented team who not only supported me in the development and refinement of my process and skills, but also willingly debated with me on the correct pronunciation of the word ‘gif.’ A Microsoft Research internship is the perfect balance: extremely beneficial and valuable with just a touch of nerdy!”
Sarah Hallacher, student at the Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch School of the Arts at NYU

Cross-posted at: http://fuse.microsoft.com/research/internships/

Social institutions, community ethics, disaster recovery

In the weeks since Sandy, it’s been interesting to see different approaches to recovery work.  A lot of attention has been given to Occupy Sandy and the extent to which some of the organization tools that were able to mobilize people for actions, protests and general assemblies have been useful in coordinating recovery efforts.  At the same time, I’ve been interested in how some of the more longstanding institutions for coordinating community involvement have responded to local disaster recovery efforts.

Take, for example, libraries.  In the week immediately following Sandy, it was interesting to see how three different library organizations positioned their responses to their local communities. On November 5, the NYPL sent out an email to its patron list:

“Since the storm hit, our Facilities team has worked around the clock to clear debris, battle power outages, and repair minor damages to get our branches up and running. By November 1, we had 55 branches open. By November 5, all but four are open, and it is our priority to get those four branches safely opened as soon as possible”.

NYPL went on to say: “In the last week, as our branches have reopened, they have been packed with patrons using our free Internet, charging their phones, reading books, enjoying free programming, or just talking to their neighbors. Library staff — many of whom were redeployed because their own branches were closed — provided increased programming for kids and teens who were out of school, and the system extended the due dates for 390,000 items.”

The NYPL administers branch and research libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, one of the city’s most hard-hit areas.  Brooklyn and Queens each have their own administering bodies; regarding the former, the BPL’s web page had been updated with the following message to its patrons:

“Our hearts go out to all of those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. As part of the Brooklyn community, we are working to help.  Our staff, many of whom have been affected themselves, are working hard to bring help to those who need it.”

In addition, the BPL listed the services it had initiated in wake of the storm, including bookmobiles to impacted neighborhoods and shelters, pop up libraries, coordinating FEMA information sessions, supply drives and a hurricane bibliography.

In comparing how these to institutions publicized their responses to Sandy, the NYPL emphasized having its branches open as quickly as possible, providing a place for people to go and being a site of resources like information, electricity, online access and entertainment.  The BPL’s messaging focuses less on libraries as institutions and more on services, particularly services that were specific to the storm.  So rather than emphasizing the library as a place that had reopened as quickly as possible to provide resources, the BPL focused on storm-specific services, including bookmobiles, supply drives and bibliographies (I noticed that the first day my BPL branch library was open, it had its temporary display case full of hurricane-related texts).

I’m most interested in the NJLA’s email updates to its members, which emphasized documentation of experiences with Sandy.  In contrast to the NYPL and BPL messages to patrons, it’s important to note that the NJLA message was sent to its members, who are mostly librarians. As Executive Director Pat Tumulty explained in an email:

“NJLA has created three tools to help us capture the story of what is going on with our libraries today as they are helping their  fellow residents cope with Sandy.” Those resources include a form that librarians can fill out to document damage to libraries, a Flickr page for sharing photos of library volunteer work, and a form to document patrons’ experiences with the storm.

Across these institutional reactions, there’s an emphasis on some of my favorite elements of what libraries do as social institutions – reflecting community ethics, acting as a site of DIY education and as a staging ground for local needs or interests. I’m not interested in setting up a hierarchy of which library organization had the best or most useful response to disasters.  But I *am* interested in using the differences between these responses to think about 1) how libraries position themselves as having responsibilities to their communities, and how those responsibilities can play out in different ways 2) how activists can leverage those commitments to local communities in order to form better, more precise actions.  These actions could be in response to disasters specifically, but maybe also community needs more generally. As social sciences research on disasters continues to grow, particularly in the realm of social media, I think it’s important (from an academic as well as an activist perspective) to look at how existing institutions are already responding to community needs, and partnering with them to expand our understanding of outreach, localized ethics and on-the-ground information.