Take the Lead to Set Up Nebulas Research Institute

Published in
8 min readOct 11, 2018


Interview with the leader of Nebulas Research Institute
Dr. Xuepeng Fan

This article was originally published in Chinese and has been translated from its original source.


Name: Xuepeng Fan

Title: Head of Nebulas Research Institute

Experience: Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, visiting scholar of University of California, San Diego. His research interests are in blockchain systems, distributed systems and parallel programming. Worked at Microsoft Research Asia and Megvii before. He is Research Director of Nebulas.

People like to say, “Nice skins are all the same, while interesting souls are hard to find.” An interesting man needs to have both knowledge and logic, to establish a complete outlook of the world and enjoy his spiritual life. Most of the time, interest is actually a surprise, which comes out of expectation.

An interested man is not someone who enters your world, but one who opens a new window for you. During the two-hour interview with Dr. Fan, one can find that talking with an interesting man is actually a great enjoyment of life. Dr. Fan can help you to see the meaning of life from a piece of music or an animation. He can also make a complicated and difficult topic such as blockchain lively and interesting. One of Dr. Xuepeng Fan’s most impressive feats is that as the head of Nebulas Research Institute, he attracted 5 amazing PhD’s for Nebulas within 4 months, which is truly impressive.

The New HR Specialist — Dr. Xuepeng Fan

During 2018, blockchain became a very hot topic and a great many people wasted no time to enter this industry. Apart from some spectators, only a handful of people are really engaged in the blockchain world. Talent becomes the most valuable resource, and “talent shortage” is a painful issue facing most starting ups.

In early February of this year, the founder of Nebulas, Hitters Xu also faced this problem. He realized that not only Nebulas, but the entire industry was facing a lot of technical challenges which cannot be independently solved by a company, an organization or a research facility. Therefore, he decided to set up the Nebulas Research Institute to solve these problems and explore the blockchain world together with others.

However, the problem was where to find the right person?

The first person who came to Hitters’ mind was Dr. Xuepeng Fan. At that time, Fan was a part time employee assisting with the writing of the Nebulas whitepaper. Hitters talked with Fan and told him he wanted to set up the Nebulas Research Institute. Dr. Fan decided to join Nebulas and explore the blockchain world together with the Nebulas team. For Fan, this is a new start and for Hitters, this decision needed great encouragement.

With Hitters’ mission of exploring the unknown world together, Dr. Fan started his new career at Nebulas. During his first day working at Nebulas, Hitters surprisingly told him that his priority wasn’t to solve a specific problem, but to recruit five more “Dr. Fan’s.” His role changed from a researcher to a HR specialist.

What does five more “Dr. Fan’s” means? In the blockchain industry where talent is rare, it is extremely difficult for an HR specialist to find the right person even though they setup interviews from morning to night - let alone to recruit someone like Dr. Fan with rich experience. Finding five more “Dr. Fan’s” will likely take an entire year, he thought.

Therefore, during the interview process, when asked about how did he find these great talents, Dr. Fan answered with pride:

“I recruited five Ph.Ds’; one of whom is my alumnus Dr. Zaiyang Tang. First, I found him and persuaded him to join us. The second one is Dr. Haoshuang Ji, who found us. I talked with him for a entire night in San Francisco, and currently Dr. Ji is the chief engineer of Atlas Protocol. The third and fourth ones are Dr. Zhuoer Wang and Dr. Congming Chen, who are my former colleges and boss. When I visited San Diego, I spent two days with them, talking about the Nebulas vision and principle. I finally persuaded them to come back to China and join Nebulas. The last one was Dr. Yulong Zeng, who was a participant in a research project with the task of solving technical difficulties with Nebulas. He worked on this research project along with a teacher from Tsinghua University and myself. Dr. Zeng joined Nebulas as soon as he graduated from Tsinghua University.”

When it came to how to persuade his former colleagues and boss to come to Nebulas, Dr. Fan told an interesting story. He said that in China, people like discussing things while drinking, however, in western society, people do not do that. When persuading Dr. Chen and Dr. Wang, he spent two nights talking to them without sleep.

What Nebulas Does Is Fun Enough to Influence the Future

Dr. Fan has a firm belief that blockchain is the future and what Nebulas does can definitely affect the future. Anyone who knows about the technology will be willing to join after understanding the blockchain industry and the mission of Nebulas. That is also what Dr. Fan has believed for five years. He began to know blockchain in 2013, when he also noticed that the blockchain can incubate a lot of interesting possibilities. When these possibilities are put into practice, society as a whole would be better. However, these possibilities also face many unsolved technical challenges. Exploration of the unknown world brings strong attraction for him.

“I think the biggest advantage of blockchain is to solve the problem of trust, which can greatly reduce loss of the entire society caused by building trust. Therefore, I think the fun applications in the future will be the product of low-cost trust. For example, more free trade; this may also include cross-border, point-to-point trade; as well as cooperation between people in a larger region. I’m full of expectation about the future of blockchain, and I believe it can be the cure for many of the word’s problems. For example, blockchain can be used in the distribution of literature. We know that literary works have copyright and maybe blockchain can play its role on the subsequent translation and various derivative works……” Fan showed a lot of excitement when talking about the future of blockchain.

Currently, Nebulas has reached cooperation with many established universities, including Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Fudan University, all of which have positive attitudes towards the cooperative research initiated by the Nebulas Research Institute. It also proves that, the blockchain industry has great potential.

In the lead of Dr. Fan, Nebulas Research Institute Changes Exponentially

In the eyes of many people, scientific study is abstruse and boring. However, when Dr. Fan talks about his work at the Nebulas Research Institute, he seems to be different from others. From his point of view, studying a new topic that he is obsessed with is like opening a box of chocolates - you never know what you are going to get. Everyday at the Nebulas Research Institute, Dr. Fan always feels surprised and excited by this unknown.

An example of this is the birth of the Nebulas Rank (NR) Yellow Paper which is a detailed interpretation of the NR concept first outlined in the white paper. After a period of verification, it was known that NR faces serious sybil attacks and manipulation issues, there was no clear direction to solve these problems.

The only options were further discussion and researching, again and again with his colleagues. It took at least one month simply to justify the preconditions of NR.

On the road of scientific research, you may take detours, but if you take a shortcut, you may miss the beautiful landscapes.

Dr. Fan told us, they put these preconditions into a function curve, and in the process of parsing, they met a lot of difficulties. After studying relative literature and analyzing the experimental results, two weeks later, along with the entire team’s effort, they finally figured out a satisfying function that met the preconditions of NR.

If we say the development of the Internet is like a train ride, then, the development of blockchain is like a rocket ride. During Fan’s leadership, everyone in the Nebulas Research Institute is experiencing rapid growth and changes daily. For the unknown, all Nebulas Research Institute members need to quickly understand knowledge in various fields in a short time. They must then quickly figure out a solution and develop their own thinking model.

Being the leader of the Nebulas Research Institute does not include all the work of Dr Fan. From the infant stage of the Nebulas Research Institute, to the birth of Nebulas Rank Yellow Paper, and onto the development of Nebulas Nova, all these achievements are closely related to the soul figure of the Nebulas Research Institute, Dr. Xuepeng Fan.

In the eyes of his colleagues, Dr. Xuepeng Fan seems to be more of a captain than a research leader. He created a “special force” within four short months. The members are all experienced, skillful and smart. They can quickly find a solution in an emergency, leading the whole Nebulas team into the world of blockchain and to keep it moving forward.

In the Rough Times of Blockchain, We Need “Xuepeng”s to Preserve the Fire Seed

Currently, the priority of the development of Nebulas is Nebulas Nova. The Nebulas mainnet 1.0 has completed its mission “creation”, and Nebulas Nova will achieve Developer Incentive Protocol(DIP), which will make Nebulas Nova the first public chain that support native developer incentives.

The Nebulas mainnet has gone through a lot of challenges for over 6 months — since the first version, Eagle Nebulas launched on March 30, 2018. Even with these challenges, Nebulas currently has over 240,000 mainnet accounts, more than 11,000 smart contracts, more than 6800 DApps, which is twice as many DApps when compared to Ethereum. Nebulas Nova will have a great improvement on performance when compared to Eagle Nebulas.

When talking about the name Nebulas Nova, Dr. Fan say, Nova is a word from Astronomy. The light produced by a Nova is the “standard candle” to measure distance in Astronomy. Nebulas Nova is a breakthrough for Nebulas Rank and we hope that Nebulas Rank will be the standard to measure the value of variety and dimensionality in the blockchain world.

“Even if we have excellent researchers, we still need more people from cryptology, economy, and information security backgrounds. We hope more experts from these fields come to join us and together, we will transfer more energy into Nebulas.”

In the winter of the industry, we need more “Xuepeng”s to preserve the fire seed of blockchain. For Xuepeng, Nebulas Research Institute is his future journey and he is sure that there are more surprises waiting down the road.

This article was originally published in Chinese and has been translated from its original source. To view the original article, please click here.

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Official website: Nebulas.io
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