SICSA Saltire Emerging Researcher Scheme – Visit at Utrecht University

16 August 2022,

by Tudor Ferariu, University of Edinburgh

Hello, my name is Tudor Ferariu and I am a first-year PhD Student at the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics. My research topic is automating formal verification for smart contracts for the Cardano blockchain. Proving the absence of bugs is very expensive, and large sums of money have already been lost to various exploits, so being able to formally prove the security of your code is paramount nowadays.

I went on a one-month research visit to Utrecht University, where I worked closely with fellow researcher Jacco Krijnen and their supervisor Wouter Swierstra. Jacco had already visited us in Edinburgh, so it felt only right to return the gesture. Their project focuses on certifying the correctness of compilation for Cardano smart contracts, which in combination with my work, would guarantee security for the entire code pipeline, a much more significant result. Together we coordinated our efforts so that our final products could be compatible with one another. Actively exchanging ideas by being in the same room proved invaluable and we managed to identify the best ways to proceed forward.

During my visit, I was also able to attend a local conference, FP Day, dedicated to functional programming, where I saw a great variety of interesting talks, but most importantly was able to network with the many world-class researchers in attendance. It was during this event that I also got to talk in person with some of my other industrial partners, namely Manuel Chakravarty of IOG and Victor Miraldo of Tweag.Io, with whom I managed to set the foundation for future collaboration.

Frequent meetings with other researchers were great opportunities not only to discuss work but also to socialize. I even managed together with my new friend Jacco to connect some of our respective researcher friends that we knew had similar topics from the two universities. Finishing my relatively short stay with a small presentation on my work, I left with a great deal of positive feedback and ideas on how to move forward. It is my belief that our collaboration has brought mutual benefit both socially and research-wise, and we are still actively working together, albeit online.

None of this would have been possible without SICSA’s Saltire Emerging Research Scheme, for which I am immensely thankful!

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