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Microsoft to open Boston-area research lab

Software company's sixth research facility will be first to be led by a woman. The Cambridge, Mass., lab is scheduled to open in July.

Microsoft on Monday said it plans in July to open its sixth research lab, in Cambridge, Mass.

The new lab will focus initially on "core computer science, especially more algorithmically oriented areas, and the social sciences, with a particular emphasis on building connections between these two areas," Microsoft said, adding that there will also be a small team working on design issues.

Jennifer Tour Chayes
Credit: Microsoft
Jennifer Tour Chayes

The lab will be run by Jennifer Tour Chayes, a veteran of Microsoft Research. The press release was quick to note that Chayes is the first woman to run one of the company's labs.

"The new lab will enable Microsoft Research to interact closely with the large community of scientists in New England, notably the faculty and students at the many premier academic institutions in the vicinity," Microsoft said in the release. "It will also provide researchers with the opportunity to interact with people in Microsoft's incubation centers and newly acquired companies in the region."

Chayes commented on both the importance of the lab and the significance of her appointment as a lab director.

"Breaking through barriers is what research is all about," Chayes said. "We're going to New England 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."

"But I'm also personally delighted that we're breaking through barriers for women in leadership positions in the scientific-research community," she added. "I hope my new role will serve as an inspiration for other women in scientific fields, and particularly for young girls who may be interested in math and science. I want to show them that math and science are cool, that research is creative and exciting, and that there is a path for women in technical fields at companies like Microsoft."

Microsoft's existing labs are in Redmond, Wash.; Silicon Valley; Beijing; Bangalore, India; and, confusingly enough, Cambridge, England.