Getting to Know Topl: Aaron Schutza, Director of Research

Gabi Skoff
Published in
3 min readSep 18, 2019


Title: Lead Cryptographer

Location: Houston

Where are you from? Tell us a little bit about your journey to get here.

I was born in Houston but spent my formative years in Northern Michigan. I came to Houston in 2011 to attend graduate school at Rice University and that’s where I met the Topl team.

What do you do at Topl? Tell us a little about your role and what it entails.

Currently, I’m researching consensus protocols for our blockchain client. What does that mean? Blockchain networks use a set of rules that users enact in order to reach one common history of events that is perpetually maintained (persistence) and continuously added to (liveness). It turns out there are many different ways for networks to maintain the desired persistence and liveness properties needed for our blockchain client to function. Topl is motivated to adopt a sustainable and scalable consensus protocol that has low energy demands while enabling a fully decentralized, impact-driven ecosystem where users can freely participate.

How did you find Topl or how did Topl find you?

I found out about Topl while I was in graduate school. I didn’t know much about blockchain technology or cryptography when our CTO and co-founder James Aman introduced me to all these concepts. Thankfully he is an excellent teacher.

What makes Topl the right fit for you?

I’m interested in mathematics, computer science, and numerical computation. My skillset in scientific computation carries over to my current role as Lead Cryptographer at Topl. I was drawn to the idea of working in such a cutting edge field where there are still a lot of unknowns and open research questions.

Topl’s unique sustainability and impact-driven goals are really motivating and I feel we’re trying to make something bigger than ourselves in this company, something that can make a difference in the world.

What is your favorite project you have worked on and why?

My favorite and most involved project so far has been developing a blockchain simulation. I’ve had a whale of a time learning all these new programming concepts and developing cryptographic protocols, but the simulation itself is putting all my efforts to the test. It carries out one of the consensus protocols we are interested in. We’re now in a position to answer a lot of questions we had about how the protocol operates and what we can expect from it.

Aaron, practising his bouldering skills.

What are you passionate about outside of work? What are your hobbies?

I like to stay active outside of work. I go cycling around the bayou and last year I got into bouldering. Sport climbing is an amazing hobby and takes years of dedicated practice to master. Having a goal-oriented fitness regiment centered around climbing is really rewarding. I’ve also played drums and piano from a young age and currently perform hand percussion in a funk band.

Which of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are you most passionate about working towards and why?

Without a doubt, Climate Action.

Personally, I feel that climate change is the greatest existential threat that humanity has ever faced.

Action towards mitigating emissions and carbon sequestration has started but as far as I know, there is no scalable technology that would handle the rapid rise in atmospheric Co2 content. Mitigation and sequestration efforts are overwhelmed by societal negligence, international emissions policies, and the incomprehensible scale and scope of deforestation occurring globally. I think any initiative promoting reduced deforestation and reforestation would have the biggest impact towards climate action.



Gabi Skoff

Content specialist & impact consultant serving purpose-driven individuals and companies in innovation and responsible tech.