Fan Zhang: Creating a More Secure and Robust Blockchain

The School of Engineering & Applied Science is proud to welcome its newest faculty members for the 2022-23 academic year. The large influx of faculty members – 11 so far, with more to be announced soon – marks the rapid growth of the School and investment in the research areas illustrated in the SEAS Strategic Vision.

The latest faculty arrivals are valuable additions to the chemical and environmental, computer science, and electrical engineering departments. Their expertise includes sustainability, artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing, cybersecurity, and optoelectronic materials.

Upon their arrival, we asked these new faculty members questions about their work, their motivations, potential collaborations, and much more:


Fan Zhang, Computer Science


Hometown:

I'm originally from a northern city in China.

Prior academic history:

I got my PhD from Cornell in 2020, advised by Prof. Ari Juels. Then I spent a year at Chainlink Labs before I started at Duke University as an assistant professor in 2021.

How would you summarize your research?

My research is focused on computer security. I'm particularly passionate about the science of blockchains, how can they help make our digital life more secure and less complex, and how to combat the new security problems in this brave new world.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

Blockchains started out as a niche protocol only used to support cryptocurrencies, but it's soon realized that the idea behind blockchains is generic and powerful: it represents a new way to organize computation to attain strong security guarantees that are otherwise impossible to achieve. My research is inspired by the vision that decentralized ledgers will become a new form of global-scale computing infrastructure, just like the cloud, but with completely different security/performance characteristics. My research studies how to make the infrastructure more secure and robust, how to securely scale up its performance and extend its functionality, and how to combat the unique security problems that arise in novel applications.

Where do you see the field 10 years from now?

I believe the world will be more and more aware of the security and privacy risks posed by an increasingly centralized Internet, and I envision security and privacy research, especially decentralized ledgers, will play an important role in addressing these challenges. I hope in ten years, decentralized ledgers will enable more digit services to be offered with better privacy, greater transparency, and stronger security.

What brought you to Yale?

I'm very impressed by the achievement of the department and the faculty members. I'm also excited about its fast growth in recent years. Moving closer to NYC is also a dream come true.

What areas outside of Computer Science do you seek to create impactful research collaborations or partnerships?

I want to collaborate with experts in economics, finance, and law, to study interdisciplinary problems in the blockchain ecosystems.

Are there any courses that you look forward to teaching/creating?

I'm looking forward to creating and teaching a course on the fundamentals of blockchains.

What are your interests outside of the lab?

I spent some of the spare time brewing coffee, riding motorcycles, and doing audiophile things.

What is the best New Haven Pizza?

I have too few data points to pick a "best", but Frank Pepe is pretty good.

Back to the 2022-2023 New SEAS Faculty Profiles