The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may not offer as many undergraduate blockchain courses as UC Berkeley but its postgraduate offering more than makes up for that. Students in recent years have had course options with names like “Blockchain and Money” and “Practice of Finance: Crypto Finance.”
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The MIT Bitcoin Club claims to be “one of the first blockchain clubs in the world.” It organizes weekly meetings for mutual education and discussion, as well as holding hackathons and co-organizing the annual MIT Bitcoin Expo.
The Expo, held virtually this year, featured speakers from across the crypto ecosystem in addition to interested parties from mainstream finance. Speakers represented the Ethereum Foundation, crypto investment fund Pantera and crypto exchange Kraken as well as traditional giants like asset manager Fidelity and the Boston Federal Reserve.
“Since we designed the MIT Digital Currency Experiment in 2013 and distributed bitcoin to all MIT undergraduate students, the campus has always been on the frontier of everything related to cryptocurrency, blockchain and decentralized networks,” Professor Christian Catalini says.
The university’s teaching staff are held in such high regard outside its walls that some have gone on to higher office. For instance, until his appointment this year, the chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler, was teaching courses about blockchain at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He was also a senior adviser to the MIT Media Lab Digital Currency Initiative.
The staff poaching between MIT and senior echelons of government goes both ways: Gensler had already chaired the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and served as an undersecretary of the Treasury prior to taking up his post teaching blockchain at the Sloan School.
This year, MIT launched its own peer-reviewed academic publication in the blockchain field, the Cryptoeconomic Systems Journal. It says its aim is to “bring cohesion to the research community” amid a wide scattering of crypto-related research across disciplines. Its content will be freely available, in accordance with the democratizing impulse of blockchain technology.