Miller equips students to meet growing industry demand for blockchain experience

11/19/2018

Allie Arp, CSL

The use of blockchain has become popular with finance, supply chain, technology, and a variety of other industries. With this growing demand, these fields need a supply of trained and experienced job candidates, and CSL assistant professor Andrew Miller is leading the charge in developing a new generation of students who are proficient in blockchain.

“A lot of the interest in blockchain is spurred on by industry interest and recruitment in different sectors,” said Miller, who is a faculty member in Illinois’ Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “It is technology driven --- it solves a problem that few people
Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
recognized we had.”

In order to give students the blockchain experience that companies desire, Miller offers three different courses; two for undergrads and one for graduate students. The introductory class teaches the basics of blockchains and helps students understand cryptography through smart contract programming (writing code). In the mid-level class, students learn fundamentals of cryptography theory, but also get hands on experience with cryptography implementation and attacks, in a variety of areas including blockchains but also communication and multiparty computing.

“I’m really proud of the cryptography course,” Miller said. “It is unique in that it combines practical programming assignments that build deep connections to the underlying theory, and also focuses on cutting-edge techniques in zero knowledge proofs in MPC for example.”

The graduate level course, Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Security, is also unique in that it focuses on the underling computer security aspects of blockchains, beyond just their economics or business uses.

For Miller’s students, it is an opportunity to learn from a professor who literally wrote the book on blockchain. Many of the top engineering and computer science schools, including Princeton and Stanford, are using a 2016 book Miller wrote. “Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies” has been described as “The only book on blockchain technology you will need” by readers.

“There was definitely a need for a blockchain textbook,” Miller said. “The goal was to draw connections between existing relevant fields, explain new things in the field, and share the state of the blockchain ecosystem.”

This spring Miller plans to take his teachings online. A Coursera offering that focuses on smart contract programming will be available during the spring 2019 semester.