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Duke Teaming Up With Microsoft In Durham and In The Cloud

Microsoft Research facility to be added to Chesterfield Building

Microsoft is adding an
Microsoft is adding an "Innovation Hub" for cloud computing in the Chesterfield Building downtown. (Triggs Photography)

Duke University is announcing a new collaboration with Microsoft in several areas including research and cognitive services using Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform.

To support the effort, Microsoft is committed to building a dedicated “Innovation Hub” in the Chesterfield building in downtown Durham, where it will be near researchers from Duke’s schools of medicine and engineering and the Duke Clinical Research Institute. 

Duke already uses Microsoft cloud technology, but the new collaboration will accelerate the use of Azure to advance healthcare research, educational programs and university operations. Duke researchers will be applying machine learning algorithms to difficult problems in gene expression and electronic health records, for example.

“We can leverage all of the work they have done and we can build on it,” said Lawrence Carin, Duke’s vice provost for research. For example, Microsoft’s efforts to improve radiology with data science can be built upon and advanced by Duke radiologists and data scientists, he said.

Azure has in place the data protections needed to maintain health records privacy, Carin said. Azure cognitive services would include speech-to-text, natural language processing and machine vision.

Cloud computing offers several advantages for the researchers and staff. It has essentially limitless data storage and processing power, along with the flexibility to apply the right computing resources to any given problem.

By being connected directly with Microsoft Research in this fashion, Duke’s researchers also can be assured of having up-to-the-minute access to the latest innovations in artificial intelligence, for example. The collaboration is campus-wide, and Duke students and staff will not have to be in Microsoft’s suite at the Chesterfield to take advantage of the Azure cloud services. 

Tallman Trask, III, Duke’s Executive Vice President, was the architect behind the relationship. “I was lucky to be in Seattle more than 30 years ago when Microsoft was a startup there,” said Trask. “It’s great that Microsoft and Microsoft Research have recognized not only the value that can come from research collaborations with Duke, but also the rise of Durham into a tech hub.”

“With Microsoft’s support, we will also enable graduate students in research labs to access the rich set of Microsoft Azure services,” Carin said. “The computational power that this will bring to our research endeavor is immense.”

Microsoft’s VP of US Education, Margo Day commented, “We are excited to launch a collaboration with Duke University that can bring the power of Microsoft Azure to some of the world’s most challenging research questions.”

Microsoft’s space in the Chesterfield will be completed in the fall of this year.