Crypto Classes at Stanford and CMU Gaining Popularity

According to a CNBC post, cryptocurrency and cryptography classes offered at Stanford’s Computer Science Department and Carnegie Mellon are gaining popularity among students.

In the US, cryptography classes are gaining popularity among students at computer science schools, including Stanford. The trend is driven by the Bitcoin price surge and the emergence of new cryptocurrencies that grow within months.

Dan Boneh, co-director of the Stanford Computer Security Lab and a professor of cryptography, said in an interview with CNBC that more and more people are showing great interest in cryptocurrency classes.

“A lot of people are attracted to the huge valuations in these currencies,” he shared.

He added that cryptography is now the second most attractive subject in the computer science department at Stanford. The most attention goes to machine learning.

Boneh, who has researched cryptography for over 30 years, said that “cryptocurrencies are a wonderful way to teach cryptography. There are a whole bunch of new applications for cryptography that didn't exist before.”

Two years ago, the professor started to teach Bitcoin and cryptocurrency related topics, and more than one hundred students followed him right away. He also started an online course on cryptography, which has been visited by over one million people.

Elsewhere, Vipul Goyal, Professor at Carnegie Mellon, is making use of Boneh’s online course for “Special Topics in Cryptography,” a blockchain and cryptocurrency related class that is a premiere for the school.

Mr. Goyal worked with cloud encryption at Microsoft Research in India, after which he began teaching. He contributed, along with Manuel Blum, to the formation of the CMU Crypto group, which allows students get involved in cryptography research projects.

Goyal said that blockchain technology would soon reach many different industries, hinting that we will not associate it with Bitcoin and Ethereum only. According to him, blockchain can transform the way we operate with data:

“The big question in my mind is, ‘Can blockchain and cryptocurrencies replace the cloud completely?’”

Both Goyal and Bohen expect that students will not only attend classes but will start their own projects around cryptocurrencies. Students may leave universities in favor of crypto startups, the same as several students did it during the dot-com era. 

“If you want to start a mobile app, you probably need some investor funding. For cryptocurrencies, if you start your own and if people are interested, you automatically get funded by the value of what you created,” says Carnegie Mellon’s Goyal.

Other examples of cryptocurrency classes in the academic sphere are “Cryptocurrency Decal,” taught at the University of California at Berkeley, and Digital Currency Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab.

The US is not the only country where cryptocurrencies and blockchain have entered universities and schools. Russian officials want citizens to get familiar with cryptocurrencies and may introduce relevant classes in schools as part of a broader program focused on financial literacy.