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Meet The Women Of The Blockchain: Elaine Shi, Chief Scientist at ThunderCore

“As much as I’m grateful and appreciative of the fact that people see me as someone to look up to, I think everyone has their own path in…


“As much as I’m grateful and appreciative of the fact that people see me as someone to look up to, I think everyone has their own path in life and all our stories are unique. My advice is to not forget that you’re one of a kind and pursue what brings you the most satisfaction.”


I had the pleasure to interview Elaine Shi, Chief Scientist at ThunderCore

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

In 2011, a good friend of mine was an early Bitcoin miner. I learned about Bitcoin from him and read the Nakamoto whitepaper. I was very fascinated by Bitcoin immediately. So I led the writing of the first academic paper on Bitcoin called “Bitter to Better — How to Make Bitcoin a Better Currency” (Financial Crypto 2012). This paper helped introduce Bitcoin to the academic community and proposed the first fair exchange scheme using the Bitcoin scripting language.

Since then, I was among the first to try to program with Bitcoin’s scripting language and knew it was difficult to work with, when Ethereum came about and was only testnet, I became very excited. My student Andrew Miller and I started doing research on Ethereum back then, and we (and other co-authors) published the first couple peer-reviewed papers on decentralized smart contracts. I was also the first to teach smart contract programming.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

Right now, scalability is the biggest challenge for blockchains and cryptocurrencies. With today’s platform, all the exciting DApps blockchains promise will not take off at scale.

When I joined Cornell in 2015 as an Associate Professor, I got to know my colleague Rafael Pass. I was interested in scalability and distributed consensus then. Rafael and I started doing research on large-scale consensus. One thing led to another, and after a couple of years of research, we think we understand mathematically why large-scale consensus is more challenging than the classical setting. We came up with Thunderella and believe it to be the dream protocol for large-scale — — it is extremely simple but very fast, enabled by a new theoretical paradigm for distributed consensus.

We were excited about implementing it and deploying it. At this time, I reconnected with my long-time friend Chris Wang. He built up a company and assembled an amazing engineering team who are now trying to implement and deploy a fast cryptocurrency (called Thunder Token) enabled by the Thunderella paradigm.


What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

The three things that I can think of off the top of my head are

  • distributed consensus
  • cryptography
  • and game theory


What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?

As much as I’m grateful and appreciative of the fact that people see me as someone to look up to, I think everyone has their own path in life and all our stories are unique. My advice is to not forget that you’re one of a kind and pursue what brings you the most satisfaction.

Originally published at medium.com

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