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Stanford University Takes Blockchain Leap

Computer scientists at Stanford University have founded the Center for Blockchain Research, an initiative dedicated to researching and understanding the technology, to provide the best educational opportunities, thanks to funding from a group of blockchain companies.

According to an announcement Thursday by the University’s Engineering School, the center’s initial five-year research program is being underwritten by gifts from: The Ethereum Foundation, Protocol Labs, the Interchain Foundation, OmiseGO, DFINITY Stiftung and PolyChain Capital.

The Center will be co-led by Dan Boneh and David Mazières, both professors of computer science and its inaugural faculty will also include Alex Aiken, David Dill, John Mitchell, Tim Roughgarden and Joe Grundfest.

Boneh, who is the Rajeev Motwani Professor in the School of Engineering, and an expert on cryptography and computer security said in the statement: “Blockchains will become increasingly critical to doing business globally. Stanford should be at the forefront of efforts to improve, apply and understand the many ripple effects of this technology.”

It is intended for the center to bring university scientists and industry leaders together to develop best practices for what it calls a burgeoning and potentially transformative field. In addition to research, the scientists are creating courses to help future students and working professionals use blockchain to develop financial instruments, protect intellectual property, manage vital records and more.

“Blockchain massively lowers the barriers to creating tradeable, digital assets,” Mazières said in the statement. “It allows individuals who don’t know each other, or even trust one another, to make irreversible transactions in a whole variety of fields in a safe and secure way.”

With all the potential possible in blockchain, the main challenges these scientists will tackle is ways to scale the technology to billions of users; ensuring that data is trustworthy and accurate while still keeping certain details private; and how to maintain high levels of security without using excess computing resources so that the cost of electricity becomes a limiting factor for new applications.

“This is a fascinating area of research with deep scientific questions,” said Boneh. “Once you get into the details you quickly realize that this area will generate many PhD theses across all of computer science and beyond.”

With the skills shortage in the blockchain sector only likely to become more acute over the next few years, efforts to focus on excellence in research and teaching can only serve the industry well and it will be interesting to see how the Stanford curriculum develops.

David Bentley
David Bentley is an experienced financial writer and communicator specializing in offshore financial services, hedge funds and technology.
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