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Hire mathematician (and computational physicist) to join res[...]

XMR473.74

funded of XMR467.00 target

24 individual contributions
101.44%
101.44325481799% Funded
0 payouts
XMR473.74 balance available
0% Paid Out

The What

Hi there! You should hire me, Sarang Noether, as a mathematical and cryptographic researcher to keep Monero stable and help it grow long term. I have a strong background in cryptography, data modeling, computational physics, and theoretical mathematics, as well as experience working with the Monero team. My good friend Surae Noether (now identified as masked mathematician Brandon Goodell) of the Monero Research Lab (MRL) team encouraged me to come on board as a full-time researcher.

The Who

Back in the day, I worked on interesting problems for MRL as it was starting to blossom as an integral part of the Monero project. Our team worked pseudonymously and analyzed existing constructions within the Monero standards while working out future improvements and analysis. You may remember me from IRC or the MRL papers. I completed separate M.S. degrees in mathematics and physics, and am set to defend my Ph.D. thesis in computational physics shortly.

My research background blends the dark side of mathematics with the messy side of material science. I use a lot of different numerical and simulation techniques to study how materials degrade, which involves huge data sets and plenty of custom analysis. My analysis is done using custom code in C++ and Python, but I have experiencing coding in ASP, C, Java, JavaScript, Perl, PHP, and other languages. To make a long story longer and toot my own horn a little: I am very good at applying rigorous mathematical and statistical analysis to big and ugly data. Before graduate school, I worked for the United States government (at the Naval Observatory in Washington) on the atomic clocks that power the GPS system, which involved a whole lotta time series analysis and more clock math than you can shake a wristwatch at. Ask me about leap seconds if you're bored sometime. I also developed and manage the cloud data infrastructure that powers the operational analysis tools for a good chunk of the bikeshare systems in the United States. If you've ever rented a bike in this country, there's a good chance it used code that I wrote.

On the side, I teach. I run cryptology courses for the Duke University Talent Identification Program and Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in the United States and overseas, where I introduce gifted students to the awesome and terrifying world of ciphers. I've even given lectures on Monero and some of its notable constructions like ring signatures in my classes. Aside from this course, I write and deliver courses on algorithm design and scientific computing. I use these courses as an opportunity to stay sharp on the cutting edge of modern cryptography and hone my skills as a technical communicator.

The Why

Why should you support me? I have a history of work with Monero's development and a sharp eye for implementations of mathematical algorithms. Monero has a lot of talented community members specialized in fields like mathematics, applied cryptography, and computer science. What's rarer, though, is someone who has a strong background in all of them. I can look at a construction and proof of security and compare it to what's actually in code. Surae and I consult frequently on issues that the community brings up, new proposals for Monero's future, and independent reviews of existing code. We've caught some less-than-ideal implementations of primitives recently, like nonstandard input concatenation hashes that aren't provably secure and should probably go away. The recent research roadmap (say that five times fast) posted by Surae to the forums is ambitious, and rightly so. Monero has come a long way, but its growth means a larger footprint to keep an eye on, and more exciting developments to thoroughly and formally investigate.

The Proposal

I propose the community hire me for 467 XMR for a three-month period (starting from the full funding date) to conduct applied and theoretical research that falls in line with the priorities set forth in the research roadmap. Big-ticket items that are the target of my focus are:

  • Thorough analysis of ring signature proposals and signature bloat. We've seen a lot of recent activity in this area that needs attention. The current goal is to hit reliable sublinear signatures without a trusted setup.
  • Investiation of efficient "future-proofing" proposals. We are interested in nailing down some bilinear pairing constructions, zero-knowledge schemes, threshold signatures, and the like. A broader, but related, goal is to gain a complete understanding of what a post-quantum Monero looks like.
  • Community consensus projects. We get papers and proposals submitted all the time that don't necessarily fit neatly into our bulleted lists of research goals, but that deserve attention. When the community agrees that a new attack or construction needs expert eyes, that becomes a focal point.

Milestones for the ambitious research roadmap put forth by Surae are necessarily fluid and must adapt to the community's needs, but you should expect the following:

  • Executive summaries and whitepapers. These are best done collaboratively, and likely will be. We've done an excellent job of putting out thorough research bulletins, but the bar of technical expertise needed for a complete understanding is sometimes set a little too high. I want to see a bigger focus on general, but factually complete, summaries that are suitable for less-technical audiences within the community.
  • Community engagement. Expect my attention on IRC and the subreddit, where the action takes place. I like the idea of designated "office hours" dedicated to technical questions.
  • Researcher collaboration. One of the biggest reasons that I am interested in this transition to full-time research is a desire to increase Monero's research footprint collaboratively. Surae and I have a history of productive mathematical work together, both within Monero and without. Internal conversations don't always happen in public, but are a major part of research in any field. Of course, at the end of the three-month period, the community should review my work and recommend (either for or against) a renewal of the proposal.

What do I want to accomplish? I want to grow the MRL program as a full-time member of the team. Monero succeeds when its community has complete trust in both the underlying mathematics and its implementation, and hiring strong researchers demonstrates to the world that Monero is serious, stable, and here for the long haul. The roadmaps include ambitious but reasonable plans to reduce blockchain bloat, continue to check under the rug for existing implementation issues, study constructions like ring signature mix-ins, and ensure Monero will remain safe and reliable in a post-quantum world. I've enjoyed consulting for MRL already, both in the past as a part-time paid researcher and more recently as a volunteer. But the team and community benefit from mathematicians who can devote their full attention to the project. The community's recent show of support to Surae was a good move that confirmed the community places a high value on strong research. The best time to hire a team of mathematicians was at Monero's birth (hindsight, amirite?), but the next best time is now.

Edit: The proposal section was heavily updated to incorporate concerns and suggestions from the community.

Edit edit: The amount was adjusted to 467 XMR to reflect a smoothing of the recent price fluctuations, after discussions in #monero-ffs.

Replies: 36
anonimal posted 3 weeks ago Replies: 1 | Weight: 451 | Link [ - ]

After speaking with Sarang, I believe he will be doing Kovri work as well? Can this be amended to the proposal?

Reply to: anonimal
SarangNoether posted 3 weeks ago Weight: 452 | Link [ - ]

I'd like to spend a few more days working with RuffCT to get a better sense of the work required to get it verified. But yes, I want to get involved with Kovri.

SarangNoether posted 3 weeks ago Weight: 447 | Link [ - ]

You magnificent bastards...

ArticMine posted 3 weeks ago Weight: 447 | Link [ - ]

Donated 200.00 XMR

Kurious posted 3 weeks ago Weight: 446 | Link [ - ]

Just chipped in a few ;-)

pa posted 3 weeks ago Weight: 446 | Link [ - ]

donated

monerodinero posted 3 weeks ago Weight: 445 | Link [ - ]

Donated! Welcome aboard Sarang!

SarangNoether posted 4 weeks ago Weight: 444 | Link [ - ]

Sarang here again. After #monero-ffs discussions (moved from #monero-research-lab for clarity and sanity), the amount was updated to reflect a smoothing of recent price fluctuations. Comments and suggestions welcome, as always.

antw081 posted 4 weeks ago Weight: 444 | Link [ - ]

Donated.

antw081 edited 4 weeks ago Weight: 444 | Link [ - ]

10 XMR donated on behalf of muff1nman.

SarangNoether edited 1 month ago Weight: 433 | Link [ - ]

Sarang here. After discussions and many engaging comments and suggestions on this forum, the subreddit, and on IRC, the proposal has been updated.

xmrenthusiast posted 1 month ago Weight: 393 | Link [ - ]

I support this proposal and vote for it to be moved to funding required. The comments from Sarang below satisfy me and hopefully those that raised questions:

> My request is for an amount that I consider reasonable given my education and background, and I'm open to talking about it openly. But keep in mind that I would like to make this research position my full-time commitment during the contract period, and that would require fair pay for that level of commitment.

>You don't want to fall into the trap of defining your projects so narrowly that you can't reasonably get any results, but also want to avoid being so broad as to avoid any real focus. Surae and I have been discussing the earlier [https://forum.getmonero.org/9/work-in-progress/87652/hire-phd-mathematician-to-look-into-post-quantum-crypto-zk-protocols-blockchain-bloat?page=&noscroll=1#post-91208](research roadmap), which is chock full of problems to address. Some are going to be more straightforward, while others are necessarily less defined. Open and regular communication with the community will be the name of the game throughout the process

I want to see this funded ASAP and hope that more academics take notice making recruiting to expand MRL easier in the future.

nioc posted 1 month ago Weight: 380 | Link [ + ]

I have read virtually everything surae has written on IRC at #monero-reasearch-lab as well as all the other monero IRC channels. I watched and heard him speak at the NYC Monero meetup this past May. I have no doubt about either his abilities or motivation.

Sarang has worked with the MRL in the past and I certainly hope he will be able to put greater time and effort into improving the very core of Monero.

I have helped fund surae and I am looking forward to doing my small part in funding Sarang and the MRL.

SarangNoether posted 1 month ago Replies: 1 | Weight: 380 | Link [ + ]

Sarang here. I just wanted to chime in and let the community know that I have been reading the excellent comments posted here so far. I apologize for not staying more engaged since posting this, but I've been in China teaching a packed three-week cryptology course. The time difference and crazy workload have been eating up all my time recently. I want to address a few of the comments in one fell swoop, if I may.

As to the rate, what was posted about contractor rates in general is very true. Making contract work a full-time position often commands rates that appear higher than for an equivalent employee position, due to things like insurance and other taxes. But regardless of the reason, we should all be comfortable with the amounts that researchers are paid, and it's definitely a good idea to have a discussion about something like standard rates as we move forward. My request is for an amount that I consider reasonable given my education and background, and I'm open to talking about it openly. But keep in mind that I would like to make this research position my full-time commitment during the contract period, and that would require fair pay for that level of commitment.

To address a related comment about the commitment, I would not have other university employment during this contract work. My university teaching positions are for summers only (like the course I'm teaching right now) and would end prior to accepting any funding. Again, I want this to be a full-time position, and will treat it as such.

The comments about deliverables are excellent, and make good points about the tightrope walk of good research. You don't want to fall into the trap of defining your projects so narrowly that you can't reasonably get any results, but also want to avoid being so broad as to avoid any real focus. Surae and I have been discussing the earlier [https://forum.getmonero.org/9/work-in-progress/87652/hire-phd-mathematician-to-look-into-post-quantum-crypto-zk-protocols-blockchain-bloat?page=&noscroll=1#post-91208](research roadmap), which is chock full of problems to address. Some are going to be more straightforward, while others are necessarily less defined. Open and regular communication with the community will be the name of the game throughout the process, if that helps to alleviate some of the concerns that were brought up.

I'll be finishing up the administrivia associated with the last few days of my course this week, but I'll hop on this thread as I'm able, to talk through any other thoughts or concerns with all of you. Thanks for your patience with my crazy schedule this month!

Reply to: SarangNoether
unknownids edited 1 month ago Replies: 1 | Weight: 383 | Link [ - ]

Feel free to drop into #monero-research-lab on irc.freenode.net if you have time Sarang :)

Reply to: unknownids SarangNoether
SarangNoether posted 1 month ago Weight: 384 | Link [ - ]

Absolutely! I finish teaching tomorrow.

antw081 edited 2 months ago Weight: 363 | Link [ + ]

I'll be happy to help fund this.

monerodinero edited 2 months ago Weight: 361 | Link [ + ]

"complete trust in both the underlying mathematics and its implementation" This is what MRL needs to produce and publish everywhere. The potential for an order of magnitude in market cap move is here. Sarang already values aspects of our project. Its time to leverage him.