Microsoft offers $1M for secure computing curricula

Microsoft's research group is making available US$1 million to help create courses in computer science, business and law that focus on secure computing.

The US$1 million will be made available as a request for proposal, Microsoft Senior Vice President Rick Rashid said in a speech Monday at the start of the software maker's annual Faculty Summit in Redmond, Washington. Speeches at the event were accessible via conference call.

"The goal there is to dedicate US$1 million over the next two years to help develop curricula for Trustworthy Computing and really improve the state of the art in terms of education for students," Rashid told an audience of about 400 faculty researchers from institutions worldwide. "There have not been really well-defined curricula in this space."

Trustworthy Computing is a Microsoft-wide initiative to focus on security launched by Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates in January 2002. Despite the initiative, Microsoft software continues to be hit by computer worms, viruses and other threats.

"What we're hoping is by helping to seed new work in this space, not research but curricula work, we will be able to accelerate the rate at which great new courses and materials will be available to people to teach Trustworthy Computing," Rashid said.

Microsoft has many initiatives to reach out to universities, including around security. Microsoft last year said it was working with a number of universities in several countries to set up courses that teach students how to write secure code. The University of Leeds in England was the first to announce such a course.

Furthering its efforts to work with academia, Microsoft on Monday also announced a US$1 million New Faculty Fellowship program to sponsor new computer science faculty members. Microsoft will award five US$200,000 fellowships a year to exceptional new faculty members, the company said.

Additionally, looking to give universities a chance to start work early with its new compiler technology code-named Phoenix, Microsoft on Monday announced the Phoenix Academic Program and the Phoenix Research Development Kit.

"These (Phoenix) technologies allow, we think, for researchers to really advance the state of the art in code generation, optimization, program analysis, binary transformations and software correctness," Rashid said.

Declining enrollment in computer science courses is one of the reasons Microsoft works with universities around the world, Gates said in a presentation at the Faculty Summit.

"It is ironic to me to think that we have this challenge," Gates said. "These are fun jobs, being involved in breakthroughs and having those opportunities. It is very different than say going off to Wall Street or something where it is just numbers, you're not really changing anything. The IQ ought to be coming almost entirely in our direction."

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