Alison Gray
Alison Gray, assistant professor at the School of Oceanography.

Microsoft announced University of Washington School of Oceanography Assistant Professor Alison Gray as one of the winners of the inaugural Microsoft Investigator Fellowship, which empowers researchers of all disciplines who plan to make an impact with research and teaching using the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform. Each fellowship provides $100,000 annually for two years and various training and community events.

Gray is an oceanographer who studies the circulation of the ocean and its impact on the physics and chemistry of the climate system. She uses observations from many different sources, including profiling floats, gliders, satellites, and ships, to investigate the dynamics of ocean circulation on a variety of scales. Her research also aims to improve our understanding of the interactions between ocean circulation and global biogeochemical cycles.

“With the use of modern cloud computing via Azure, my research will be able to take advantage of the vast quantities of global ocean data now being generated, enabling us to tackle important scientific questions in new and exciting ways,” says Gray.

Using the cloud computing and machine learning capabilities of Microsoft Azure, Gray will produce high-resolution four-dimensional estimates of key ocean biological and chemical properties from Biogeochemical-Argo observations — properties including pH, oxygen, nitrate and chlorophyll — on an unparalleled scale and in near-real-time. This project will be the first to establish an optimal artificial intelligence framework to model the irregular, relatively sparse data produced by these instruments. The resulting estimates will be updated monthly and distributed freely online, allowing this information to be easily and effectively used by the scientific community, resource managers and stakeholders at the local, national and international levels, as well as the greater public.

A central focus of this project will be the training of one graduate student and one undergraduate student at the UW, who will gain hands-on experience in oceanographic data analysis, machine learning and cloud computing.

“This sounds like an interesting opportunity to learn from other people in the fellowship, who come from a wide array of fields. I’m looking forward to learning about machine learning, computing and artificial intelligence,” Gray says.

Full list of winners and more information about the fellowship is available in Microsoft’s release.