Seminar on Blockchains and Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

Seminar Overview | Schedule

Seminar Description

Blockchain technology is an increasingly popular decentralized ledger technology that utilizes a list of cryptographically linked records, called "blocks", to record transactions. This technology is used not only to create cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin but also to develop decentralized applications that run on top of Ethereum. In this seminar, we will delve into the design and implementation of blockchain technology, with a focus on its applications in Decentralized Finance (DeFi). We will cover four main topics: (i) background of blockchains, (ii) (Dis-)Incentives for Consensus, (iii) transaction prioritization, and (iv) Decentralized Finance (DeFi) applications.

Basic Details


Teaching Assistant (TA)

Contact Details

You can contact the seminar instructors and teaching assistants through Moodle. Please, email individual staff members only if the communication is personal, and is not related to the seminar in general.

Seminar Schedule

The seminar schedule and the reading list are available at here. The seminar takes place every third Wednesday from April 19 to August 16, 2023, starting on April 19, as detailed in the schedule.


Seminar Structure

Seminar Format

This seminar will cover 4 topics related to blockchains:

  • Background of blockchains
  • (Dis-)Incentives for Consensus
  • Transaction prioritization
  • Decentralized Finance (DeFi) applications

There will be no weekly classes. The seminar will consist of 5 lectures: an introductory lecture + 1 lecture per topic. The seminar will take place every third Wednesday from 16:00 to 18:00, starting on April 19, as detailed in the schedule. The lectures will consist of student presentations of the papers listed in the reading list, followed by a group discussion.

Intended Audience / Prerequisites

This seminar is open to undergraduate and graduate students. A background in at least one of the following topics is required to participate in this seminar. Therefore, students must have passed one or more of these courses or an equivalent course:

  • Operating Systems, Distributed Systems, or Networking
  • Cryptography or Security-related courses
  • Information Retrieval, Databases, Data Mining, Machine Learning, Data Science related courses

The course language is English. All lectures, office hours, presentations, and communication with the seminar staff will be conducted in English only.

Reading Assignments

Students are required to read all of the papers on the reading list, in order to be able to participate in group discussions.

In addition, prior to each lecture, students must submit a review of one of the papers to be covered during the lecture (as detailed in the reading list). Students may choose which of the four papers they wish to review. In total, students will be required to submit 4 reviews (1 per topic).

Assignments will be submitted via Moodle. Assignments will consist of filling out a review form on the assignment submission page. The review form consists of the following questions:

  • Paper summary (short, 5-6 sentences)
  • Three strengths of the paper
  • Three weaknesses of the paper
  • At least one way the paper could be improved
  • At least one way the paper could be expanded

Assignment deadlines: Assignments are due by 23:59:59 on the day before of each class (as detailed in the schedule).

Late submissions: We will use a flexible slip date policy for late submissions of reading assignments. Each student will receive an automatic extension of 4 calendar days for the entire semester. Students may use the extension on any reading assignment during the semester in hourly increments. For example, they may turn in one reading assignment 4 days late, or one assignment 2 days late, and two assignments 1 day late.


Each student must present one of the papers from the reading list in order to pass the course. Presentations will be assigned on a fair allocation basis according to student preference. After the introductory lecture (April 19), students will be asked to indicate their paper preferences.

Presentations should be 15 minutes long + 10 minutes for group discussion and questions. Presentations will take place according to the schedule.

Your presentation should include the following, but is not limited to:
  • The motivation for the paper
  • The problem(s) the paper addresses
  • The solution(s) proposed by the paper
  • The contribution and findings of the paper
  • Conclusion and (possible) future work


The reading assignments will count for 50% of the grade (12.5% per paper), and the presentation will count for 30%, and participation will count for the remaining 20% (including student attendance and class participation). To pass the seminar, a student must receive at least 50% of the maximum possible points for both the paper summaries, the presentation, and participation.