Interview of Gordon Pace, Professor at the University of Malta.

Everything you need to know about the Centre for Distributed Ledger Technologies which is offering a Masters on the Blockchain Island !

Gordon Pace is a professor in Centre for Distributed Ledger Technologies at the University of Malta. We meet him last november at Malta Blockchain Summit and he kindly accept to answer our few questions, interview :

LVBG – Can you present yourself in few words?

GP – I’m a professor at the University of Malta. My background is in computer science, with my research focusing primarily on techniques to support the verification of software and hardware systems. Over the past few years, I have been looking at how existing techniques can be adapted to verify blockchain–based systems – mostly at the smart contract level. Despite the relatively low complexity (compared to traditional systems which tend to be much larger), the fact that they manipulate digital assets and cryptocurrencies makes them critical systems which require a high degree of assurances. The development of techniques and verification tool to enable automated analysis of smart contracts became a focus of my research. Apart from my academic work, however, I have also been active from a national science and technology policy perspective, and over the past few years, with the Maltese jurisdiction actively promoting the blockchain industry, I was involved in the legislation drafting, setting of national strategy and its implementation. 

LVBG – Can you tell us more about the Centre for Distributed Ledger Technologies at the University of Malta ?

GP – The Centre for Distributed Ledger Technologies was set up at the University of Malta almost two years ago as a way of focussing on blockchain by bridging across the knowledge from different fields. Although there was already much work being done at the University of Malta in the field both from a research and teaching perspective, what was lacking was an infrastructure to encourage and enable multi-disciplinary work, bringing together aspects from legal, ICT, business, finance and economics. The first major project the Centre for DLTs undertook was the launching of a new Masters programme focussing on DLT, aimed at taking in graduates and professionals and providing a deep dive into their area of expertise but also units to widen their knowledge in peripheral fields. We strongly believe that with blockchain and various other new technologies, such a holistic understanding, a hybrid of deep knowledge in their core expertise but supplanted with substantial peripheral understanding is key.      

LVBG – The masters in Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies are covering ICT, law or finance. Why where these three differents academic fields chosen? 

GP – Blockchain is, by its very nature, a multidisciplinary field: understanding the technology behind still requires legal knowledge of the frameworks regulating the technology which we are seeing appear all around the world, you still require a degree of knowledge of finance and economics when building a token-based economy, and similarly vice versa. It suffices to mention the long-standing debate about the relationship between legal and smart contracts. Far too many understand the technology but not relevant legislation, or understand the law but lack any concrete knowledge of what a smart contract is, how it works, etc. We strongly believe that having a broad base of knowledge gives you the edge in this domain. This is not to say that expertise is not just as important. In fact, our programme is built in such a manner that each student gets advanced units on his or her background, and foundational units on the others. For example, a student with a background in business and finance would get an advanced unit on tokenomics, but also foundational units on DLT legislation and on the programming of smart contracts. At the end of the degree programme, the students will not only have dug deep into their field but also have the skillset to communicate effectively with professionals in the peripheral fields. 

LVBG – The Centre is offering a Masters, but what about PhDs?

GP – We are currently focusing on the multi-disciplinary aspects through the Centre, and hence the emphasis on our Masters-level degree programme. Currently, for those who want to undertake a PhD the Centre would direct students towards the Faculty in which the research will be mostly rooted. However, when a PhD has a multidisciplinary aspect, the Centre can still play the important role of identifying academics in the secondary areas of the research problem being addressed.  

LVBG – Do you have partnerships with companies? Which ones?

GP – Working with industry partners has been a priority right from the setting up of the Centre. We are actively collaborating and partnering with various companies, from research projects to student placements, industry-leaders’ talks as part of the Masters programme, funded studentships, etc. Such activities have been undertaken with IBM, Binance, IOHK, Cardano, Tendermint, Cosmos, Learning Machine, ConsenSys, TON Labs, PwC, EY, Ganado Advocates, GTG Advocates, Blockchain Advisory (BCA), Grant Thornton, KPMG amongst others.

LVBG – This new department has only Maltese students, or foreigners also? Are French candidatures welcome? Are scholarships available to foreign students?  

GP – The degree programme is an international one, with both Maltese and foreign students, with French students certainly being more than welcome to join! This year’s scholarship scheme will be opening soon, so the details and conditions are still to appear although the calls should be open to all EU citizens. The details of the call should be out in the near future and will be shared on the Centre’s Facebook page  on which all such news items are always published.  

Interview by Louise Valentina Bautista Gomez (LVBG) – February of 2020

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