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Hypothetical Dunking for Science
James Mickens
Credit: NSF.

This ScienceLives article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

While James Mickens' official title is Microsoft Research (MSR) team member, he is also known by the titles of "funniest man in Microsoft Research" and "Galactic Viceroy of Research Excellence," though the latter, at first, was self-proclaimed.

Mickens earned his undergraduate degree in computer science at the Georgia Institute of Technology and his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Michigan. Originally he thought he would follow in his father's footsteps and become a professor, he said in an interview for Microsoft blog Technet. However, after interning twice with Microsoft, he decided to work for MSR's Distributed Systems Group because "It's hipper than a university and actually more laid back," he said.

Recently, Mickens has been developing Mugshot, a program designed to help debug web-based applications. The app market has grown at a powerful pace, Mickens says, but the tools to help developers build robust, bug-free applications have not kept up. Mugshot is designed as a solution to this.

When he is not coding away, Mickens makes sure to rock out. He is an ardent Black Sabbath fan and also plays in two bands — one metal and one folk metal — both of which consist of a single member.

Mickens believes that there is a need for greater diversity within computer science. He contextualizes the problem, saying, "Most difficult questions are often solved in an unconventional manner. So when you have diversity in the workforce, it helps bring to bear a lot of different perspectives … which means the problems get solved quicker."

While most scientists attribute Einstein or Newton as those who have inspired them, Mickens points to professional basketball player Lebron James. To find out why, watch the video below.

Name: James Mickens
Institution: Microsoft Research
Field of Study: Computer Science

Editor's Note: The researchers depicted in ScienceLives articles have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the federal agency charged with funding basic research and education across all fields of science and engineering. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the ScienceLives archive.