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ECE 598 AM -

Spring 2021

Official Description

Subject offerings of new and developing areas of knowledge in electrical and computer engineering intended to augment the existing curriculum. See Class Schedule or departmental course information for topics and prerequisites. Course Information: May be repeated in the same or separate terms if topics vary.

Subject Area

Graduate Seminar and Thesis Research


Decentralized cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, have gained rapid popularity, attracting the attention of academics, entrepreneurs, economists, and policymakers. They promise to create new disruptive markets, and revolutionize how we think of money and financial infrastructure.

The goal of this course is to introduce students to current research in cryptocurrencies. We’ll cover the technical background of applied cryptography and incentive mechanisms. The bulk of the course will consist of reading and discussion of recent research papers from top security conferences. Assignments will involve handson practice with cryptocurrency tools, such as sending and receive cryptocurrency payments, and programming smart contracts. The course will culminate with an original research project.

More course description:
The first few classes will consist of lectures from the instructor, especially intended to establish the necessary background. Thereafter, we will read and discuss research papers, especially from computer security conferences, Financial Cryptography, and the Bitcoin Research workshop, PETS, WEIS, etc.


Cryptocurrencies are fun because they’re a contemporary, realworld embodiment of many exciting concepts in applied crypto, etc., that have previously been either very abstract or even just sciencefiction. So a goal of this course is to build some handson experience and familiarity with free open source software (FOSS) tools, and especially ones that will be useful for completing final projects.

  • Install a Bitcoin client, create a Bitcoin address, make and receive Bitcoin payments
  • Install Ethereum, program and deploy an Ethereum smart contract
  • Familiarize yourself with other tools, such as libraries for crafting custom Bitcoin transactions, or libraries for interacting directly with the live peertopeer network

You can also get bonus credit by interacting with the cryptocurrency ecosystem, by posting on forums, contributing source code or bug reports, etc., and explaining it to the class.

Lab Projects

You’ll be required to complete an original research project by the end of the course. Students are encouraged to work in teams of two working alone is fine, teams should be no larger than three. These projects can be broadly scoped, and could take many possible technical approaches (measurement, systems, cryptography, attacks, distributed protocol design, or even data science, HCI, etc.). Project proposals will need to be approved by the instructor
approximately 1/3 of the way through the course. We’ll have a checkpoint presentation 2/3 of the way through the course. By the end of the course, the goal is to have a conferencequality research paper.


  • Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies
  • Mastering Bitcoin

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