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  Blockchain economics and decentralised finance (DeFi)

   Department of Computer Science

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  Dr Jiahua Xu  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

UCL Computer Science is inviting applications seeking to pursue research in Blockchain economics and decentralised finance (DeFi). You will be under the supervision of Dr Jiahua Xu, and affiliated to the Financial Computing and Analytics (FCA) research group as well as the Centre for Blockchain Technologies (CBT) of the university. 

You will conduct interdisciplinary research that combines computer science and financial economics. You will have good exposure to a network of scholars from top-tier educational institutions (e.g., Harvard Business School, Oxford University, London School of Economics, London Business School, Imperial College, Swiss Finance Institute) as well as various industry partners (e.g., Consensys, Binance, Ripple, Hedera, Cryptocompare as well as an array of blockchain startups). 

What we look for: 

Hard skills

Various computer skills will be needed for your PhD research. You will have an edge if you already have a good command of: 

  • Python / R 
  • Git 
  • command line 
  • LaTeX 
  • Markdown 
  • SQL 

Soft skills

  • genuine interest in studying blockchain economics and decentralised finance 
  • capability to learn quickly with little handholding (particularly important if you are not proficient already with the hard skills listed above) 
  • attention to detail 
  • good comprehension and abstraction skills 
  • grit and persistence 
  • proactivity and reliability 

How to apply: 

Applications can be submitted at any time via UCL’s application system 

(, where you can also find generic information on PhD studies at UCL Computer Science including entry requirements as well as fees and funding.  

The recruitment is on a rolling basis. Your earliest start date is on average 3 months after your application submission.

You are encouraged to start the application process, and prepare the required documents (e.g. research proposal, recommendation letters) early.

Before submitting your application, you may contact Dr Jiahua Xu ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your research proposal. Your proposal should include:

  • Background
  • Your experience related to the proposed research
  • Methodology
  • Sources of data in the case of an empirical study
  • Expected research outcome
  • Potential impact / contribution of the study
  • Potential publication outlets
  • OPTIONAL: potential collaborators
  • Research timeline
  • References

To ensure that your e-mail gets answered* and does not land in Spam, please strictly follow the format below: 

  • Title: PhD application {Your_Name} 
  • Main text: a short cover letter that includes:  
  1. an Overleaf link to your CV (in LaTeX) with your GitHub profile in 
  2. whether you have alternative funding sources (incl. self-financing)
  3. your available time slots for a 30-min call to present and discuss your proposal
  • Attachments: None

*Note: due to the overwhelmingly large number of inquiries, e-mails that fail to follow the format above will not be answered any more. Messages sent through channels other than e-mail (e.g. LinkedIn) regarding this PhD position will also not be answered any more.

Please read the entire advert for this position carefully before sending your e-mail. The position is open as long as this advert is live.

Computer Science (8) Economics (10) Finance (14)

Funding Notes

Dr Jiahua Xu has a budget to fund ONE PhD student starting in October 2022. The budget covers the Home or Overseas UCL registration fees, the standard UKRI level of stipends (recently announced as being £18,602 for the 2022-23 academic year) and up to £4,800 over 4 years to cover the student’s research expenses (eg. laptop, conference attendance costs).
Candidates who have alternative funding methods (incl. self-financing) and / or wish to start later can also apply.
The funded position has not been awarded yet.
All PhD students have the chance to earn income through teaching assistant jobs and internships.


Xu, J., Paruch, K., Cousaert, S., & Feng, Y. (2022). SoK: Decentralized Exchanges (DEX) with Automated Market Maker (AMM) protocols.
Cousaert, S., Xu, J., & Matsui, T. (2022). SoK: Yield Aggregators in DeFi. 2022 IEEE International Conference on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency (ICBC), 1–14.
Xu, J., Ackerer, D., & Dubovitskaya, A. (2021). A Game-Theoretic Analysis of Cross-Chain Atomic Swaps with HTLCs. IEEE 41st International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS), 584–594.
Perez, D., Xu, J., & Livshits, B. (2020). Revisiting Transactional Statistics of High-scalability Blockchains. ACM Internet Measurement Conference, 16(20), 535–550.
Perez, D., Werner, S. M., Xu, J., & Livshits, B. (2021). Liquidations: DeFi on a Knife-edge. Financial Cryptography and Data Security, 457–476.
Xu, J., & Livshits, B. (2019). The Anatomy of a Cryptocurrency Pump-and-Dump Scheme. 28th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 19), 1609–1625.
Braun, A., Cohen, L. H., & Xu, J. (2020). fidentiaX: The Tradable Insurance Marketplace on Blockchain. Harvard Business School Case, 219–116.
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