Home Ethereum New University Research Grant Through Ethereum Will Increase Security of Smart Contracts and Blockchain Applications | Computing

New University Research Grant Through Ethereum Will Increase Security of Smart Contracts and Blockchain Applications | Computing

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New University Research Grant Through Ethereum Will Increase Security of Smart Contracts and Blockchain Applications |  Computing

Now in her seventh and final year of the doctoral program at Illinois Computer Science, Xiaohong Chen gradually developed his interest in the formal semantics of programming languages.

Headshot photos of Illinois computer science student Xiaohong Chen, left, and Professor Grigore Rosu, right.
Illinois science student Xiaohong Chen (left) and Professor Grigore Rosu.

The latest example of his progress is an academic research grant through Ethereum – the second blockchain after Bitcoin – which Chen won with an advisor and professor from Illinois CS Grigore Rosu. The two will delve into a research topic titled “Trustworthy Formal Verification for Ethereum Smart Contracts via Machine-Verifiable Proof Certificates.”

Their project became one of 39 grants in seven different categories, through which Ethereum has allocated over $2 million.

“I have always found the formal semantics of programming languages ​​to be a fascinating area of ​​research because it studies the security and correctness of computer programs – which are ubiquitous these days – using the most rigorous and reliability that we have known: mathematics and logic.” Chen said. “For me, Ethereum’s support through this grant is an important recognition that my doctoral research is useful for real-world industrial applications and is valued by the industry community.”

Chen specifically described the approach of this research effort as something aimed “to improve the reliability of Ethereum smart contracts and blockchain applications and to make formal verification results more transparent and accessible to all stakeholders.”

The plan is to do this by “generating machine-verifiable proof certificates as correctness certificates independent of smart contracts, consensus protocols, and virtual machines.”

Chen is fully confident that the results of the project will pay significant dividends.

“The study will significantly improve the security of existing smart contracts and blockchain applications to an unprecedented level,” he said. “Each on-chain activity will be supported by a certificate of proof, which can be independently verified by all stakeholders.”

It also foresees another impact that research can create.

“In the long term, the study will make the existing blockchain architecture more energy efficient, as smart contracts only need to be executed once,” Chen said. “Execution results can then be trusted, eliminating the need to re-execute them on every node in the chain as it currently stands.”

As blockchain technology continues to emerge, Rosu believes it will be increasingly important for Illinois CS to remain relevant in this area.

He is proud that his Formal Systems Laboratory continues to aim for projects like this to continue improving the quality of IT systems.

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