A year ago, at the start of Anca Scarlat’s (BS computer science, '22) freshman year, she knew hardly anything about blockchain. Now, she is the incoming president of Drexel Blockchain, a group that was co-founded by a College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) students in fall 2018. Adit Gupta (BS software engineering & mathematics, '19), Marius Garbea (BS computer science & mathematics, '22), and Dean Blank (BS computer science & finance, '19) established the group to provide an “open space to establish community discussion amongst individuals and industry professionals who are passionate about all things blockchain.” We recently sat down with Scarlat to learn more about what attracted her to Drexel Blockchain, how her own story exemplifies the Drexel Blockchain mission to connect and educate people, and what the upcoming year looks like for the club.
CCI: Tell us about how you first got involved with Drexel Blockchain.
Anca Scarlat: I heard about Drexel Blockchain last fall during my freshman year, and I was one of their first members. I wasn't sure what blockchain meant when I joined, and I wanted to learn more. The whole purpose of the Drexel Blockchain club is to educate and research and make sense of what blockchain means. After the club’s very first meeting, it all started to make so much sense to me and I never stopped coming back.
CCI: So you went from not really knowing what Blockchain was at all to being elected President of the club a year later?
AS: Yes! When they announced elections and posted the form, I just decided to nominate myself for the presidency – why not aim high? And I just got elected in the spring, so I’ll be leading the club all throughout the next school year.
CCI: What kind of students are involved in the club currently?
AS: We have around 70 students, both undergrad and graduate. Our biggest number of students comes from CCI, but we are a very inclusive club. Because blockchain can be applied in any field, our goal is to have students from all of Drexel's colleges. Right now, we have engineering students, students from the Close School of Entrepreneurship, and a lot of students from LeBow [College of Business]. But we are trying to include as many students as we can.
We don’t expect people to know what blockchain is when they first show up, like in my case. So we’re trying to create workshops and programming that will make it easier for new members to understand it, and we’ve even brought in a few professionals from the Philadelphia area to contextualize how blockchain works for them in real business and software applications.
CCI: Do you feel like this club has given you a space to collaborate with students from other majors?
AS: Absolutely! In this club, you get to interact with people whose backgrounds are very different than your own, and you learn a lot. I’ve definitely met a lot of people from different majors that I otherwise wouldn't have met or interacted with in my CCI classes. We have a goal to bring on a faculty advisor from each college at the University as a way to bring more students into the club and continue exploring the ways that blockchain impacts all industries.
CCI: Many people are only familiar with blockchain as it applies to cryptocurrency. Outside of that area, what are some of the different applications of blockchain that you find interesting?
AS: I think healthcare is one of the biggest industries that blockchain can be applied in. There is so much personal health data that must be protected from breaches. Blockchain can also be involved in solving climate change to keep better track of reporting greenhouse emissions and other data. It’s such a big issue and there is an enormous amount of data collected by the scientists working to address climate change. You really can use blockchain in any industry you can think of because security and data protection are concerns for all types of businesses.
CCI: What kind of programming do you have planned for the upcoming year?
AS: We have a lot of interesting events. Drexel Blockchain is working with CoInvention, on Philadelphia Block Chain Week, a week-long blockchain conference that will take place in September, to host an event that will be open to all kinds of students.
We’ll continue to host events once every two weeks and bring in professionals from the city to give workshops or talks about what makes blockchain so exciting.
CCI: Is there anything else we should know about Drexel Blockchain?
AS: The awesome thing about joining Drexel Blockchain my freshman year is that, when I graduate, I’ll have five years of experience with an emerging technology that not that many people have experience using. Being part of Drexel Blockchain helped me grow a lot and make the most of my time as a student.
It’s also given me access to professionals who are passionate about blockchain who, on my own, I never would have met. It’s so helpful to hear their stories and make meaningful connections that will help in my future search for jobs or co-ops.
If you’d like to learn more about Drexel Blockchain, read 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Drexel Blockchain. You can contact the group on Facebook, LinkedIn, or at DrexelBlockchain@gmail.com.