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Microsoft snags Yahoo scientists for new research lab

Software giant hires a handful of Yahoo's brightest scientists for a New York lab that will focus on social interaction.

Microsoft has launched a new research lab staffed largely with scientists hired away from Yahoo.

To staff the new research facility in New York, the software giant snatched 14 scientists from the foundering Internet pioneer, which last month laid off about 2,000 employees across the board, including its research staff.

The new lab, which will be tasked with studying how people interact and share information online, will include Duncan Watts, David Pennock, and John Langford -- all former Yahoo scientists, according to a blog post by Jennifer Chayes, the managing director of Microsoft Research New England and the new lab in New York.

"The Microsoft Research New York City lab reflects an opportunity for Microsoft Research researchers and developers worldwide to interact deeply with the vibrant academic and tech communities in the New York metropolitan area, as well as an opportunity to attract great new talent to Microsoft," Chayes said in a statement.

Pennock, whose research centers on the intersection of computer science and economics, will serve as the lab's assistant managing director, overseeing its day-to-day operations, Chayes said. Watts is a former sociology professor at Columbia University whose research focuses on computational and experimental social science, while Langford's interests lie in scalable interactive machine learning.

Chayes described in a blog post how the interconnectivity of the research community led to conversations about mutual goals.

"As we in Microsoft Research connected with them to begin a meaningful dialogue about their plans and aspirations, we began to fully appreciate not only their individual talents and expertise, but also their uncanny ability to work together with unrivaled energy and passion," Chayes wrote. "The conversations left me and other Microsoft Research researchers inspired to expand our East Coast presence."

The new Microsoft recruits will join a global network of more than of more than 850 Ph.D. researchers who collaborate openly with leading academic, governmental, and industry researchers.