Announcing the winners of the 2018 DFINITY Scholarship Program

In February, DFINITY announced its first ever DFINITY Scholarship program. The scholarship program was aimed at students who demonstrated their thesis and/or proposal was blockchain-related and could be used towards advancing DFINITY’s core technology. DFINITY intentionally broadened the scope of the application process to include fields such as applied and theoretical cryptography, economics, and computer science to encompass a variety of research areas including secure computation, gossip networks and consensus mechanisms.

Today, DFINITY is excited to announce that we have awarded three individuals and one team of undergraduates the 2018 DFINITY Scholarship! We received more applications than initially anticipated, and even extended an offer of internship to one of the scholarship recipients to join us in our Palo Alto office for the summer! Each recipient of the scholarship will receive $10,000 and valuable advice and mentorship from the DFINITY team.

Learn more about the scholarship winners and their proposals below:

Easwar Vivek Mangipudi

Easwar Vivek Mangipudi is a Ph.D. student in the Computer Science department at Purdue University advised by Aniket Kate. He works on Multi-Party Computation protocols and their applications to Blockchains. He is broadly interested in security and applied cryptography. Before attending Purdue University, he obtained his Masters degree at IIT Madras where he worked on resource allocation in wireless network following which he worked on wireless sensor networks at Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India.

Proposal: Distributed key generation (DKG) is a multi-party computation protocol to distribute shares of a secret key among a set of users corresponding to a public key that can be computed by all the users. Any subset of users of a size greater or equal to a size t (called threshold) can come together and compute the secret key. Existing DKG protocols are either interactive or do not scale to large number of users. We propose to build a non-interactive DKG protocol that scales to hundreds of users. Non-interactivity is key in a blockchain setting as the users can go offline at any point of time. To achieve non-interactivity, the dealers of the shares compute and publish a proof of correctness of generation of the shares along with the shares, on the blockchain, which is used as a public bulletin board.

Saleet Mossel

Saleet Mossel is a second-year computer science PhD student at MIT, advised by Shafi Goldwasser. Prior to coming to MIT, she completed both her honors MSc and BSc at Tel-Aviv University. She holds previous positions in the RSA Security Division of EMC as a Java SW and SW and Risk Model QA Engineer.

Proposal: The goal of the proposed research is to design a blockchain mechanism by which it is made possible to publicly verify that an input is indeed random and has not been manipulated. The goal is to design a sublinear MPC protocol for approximating a function f, in a setting where the number of parties may be very large, and many of the players may be asleep.

Goran Zuzic

Goran Zuzic is a third year Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, advised by Prof. Bernhard Haeupler. He is interested in the fundamentals of distributed computing. In particular, he is working on designing efficient distributed protocols that adapt to the underlying network and have provable performance guarantees. His other research interests include stochastic optimization and spectral graph theory.

Proposal: Goran proposes to develop an algorithmic toolbox for designing distributed algorithms which provably outperform state-of-the-art distributed algorithms when the network topology is not adversarially constructed and otherwise match them. His main tool is the recently developed low-congestion shortcut framework that exploits the specific structure of the underlying network. He proposes new techniques (e.g., continuous optimization), new topologies (e.g, minor free and geometric intersection graphs), new problems (e.g., shortest path, maximum flow, page rank) and new distributed models (e.g., radio networks and gossip networks).

Mechanism Labs

Mechanism Labs is an open source set of experiments focused on pushing forward research in the blockchain space through increased accessibility. These experiments range from SoK papers, to implementation of cryptographic primitives, curation of open problems, rethinking incentives in peer review processes + a live journal, and revisiting economic incentives for the way we currently employ patents. In the long term, Mechanism Labs aims to catalyze impactful open source research leading to tangible output and optimization across all levels of the blockchain stack.

Proposal: They aim to analyze the security of Proof of Stake (PoS) protocols and devise an incentivizing method that is secure under both adversarial and rational assumptions. In the analysis process the team aims to study these systems from a cryptographic, network, and economic perspective. They will see what kind of adversarial environments these works specify and tolerate, and will delineate different works as tolerating different message passing and computational delay that makes some works tolerant against “asynchrony,” “synchrony,” and “partial/semi-synchrony”, and we will assess whether their incentive structures are nash or epsilon nash equilibria or not.

While the February scholarship announcement originally opened up the selection process to PhD students, the selection committee was so impressed with the team of undergraduates at Berkeley that we decided to create an additional scholarship. Indeed, all proposals were evaluated based on their plausibility and significance to the distributed computing community and Mechanism Labs, along with Easwar Vivek Mangipudi, Saleet Mossel, and Goran Zuzic, demonstrated an impressive application of their respective research areas to secure distributed system.

As such, we are thrilled to announce that the 2019 DFINITY Scholarship Program will be open to both PhDs and undergraduates! Stay tuned for more details to come on this initiative.

Until then, if you’d like to discuss the scholarship program, please visit the official DFINITY Rocket Chat and join the conversation. Want to learn more about what it’s like interning at DFINITY? Check out the Inside DFINITY video below with Easwar Vivek Mangipudi.

Inside DFINITY with Easwar Vivek Mangipudi
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