People success story: Tamara Brandstätter
Our colleague Tamara Brandstätter has won a best paper award for her master’s thesis, and we are very proud of her success! After she graduated from the Technical University of Vienna, she and her advisor decided to publish a paper with the main findings of her thesis. The rest is history. We were eager to learn more about her most defining moments in the tech field as well as her paper and the award.
Tamara Brandstätter is a software developer and team leader at Cloudflight. She started off working part-time in the company so that she would be able to continue her studies while working. Her paper “Characterizing Efficiency Optimizations in Solidity Smart Contracts” received the Best Paper Award at the 3rd IEEE International Conference on Blockchain 2020.
In her dissertation, she investigated optimization possibilities for smart contracts on the Ethereum Blockchain. The analyzed contracts were written in Solidity – an object-oriented programming language for writing smart contracts. Her focus was on reducing storage space usage and runtime; this lowers the costs of deploying and running contracts on the Blockchain and ultimately reduces gas fees.
A woman in tech: the first decisive moment
“After finishing high school, I wanted to enroll at the HTL – an engineering-focused secondary school in Austria – and study structural engineering because I liked geometric drawing a lot,” Tamara explains. “On the open day, when I went from one workshop to the next, I quickly realized that it was not like I had imagined. Despite being a little disappointed that my first choice didn’t work out as expected, I decided to take a look at the IT department as well. The tour there was quite different: they covered topics like mathematical understanding, problem solving, and logical thinking. After they showed me how they programmed a robot that manages to follow a line on the floor, I felt like I had found what I always wanted to learn without even knowing it. That was the moment when I decided to study computer science and software engineering,” she confesses.
What is the Ethereum blockchain about?
Tamara investigated optimization possibilities for smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a decentralized, open source blockchain with smart contract functionality. We asked her to explain the meaning of her approach, and she described it as follows: “Because the term gas is used, you can compare it with a car. You must pay an initial amount of money to buy the car depending on the size, features, and so on – smaller cars might therefore be less expensive. Owning the car is one thing. But if you want to be able to drive it, you also must pay for gas. If the engine is designed efficiently, you need to spend less money on gas. Think of the computer program as the car and the code as the engine. Instead of paying for gas to drive around, you must pay fees to execute (parts of) that program code. The more efficiently the code is designed, the less money you have to spend.”
Smart contracts are computer programs
“Smart contracts are deployed on the executable blockchain. Fees in the form of gas must be paid for installing a smart contract on the blockchain; these depend on the size of the byte code. Additional fees must be paid whenever a function of a smart contract is executed. These depend on the computational steps and storage space required,” Tamara elucidates. “On the Ethereum blockchain, millions of USD are paid in form of gas fees every single day. Because the cost of gas can increase if a contract is not well-implemented, there is a great deal of incentive to reduce these gas cost in order to save money,” she points out.
Tamara and her advisor identified 19 optimization strategies from the field of software engineering. These can be applied to Solidity smart contracts in order to reduce the cost of gas required.
The 3rd IEEE International Conference on Blockchain
The IEEE Blockchain received 225 submissions. All papers underwent a rigorous review process. Thirty-six papers were accepted, resulting in an acceptance rate of 16%. It was an international conference with program chairs from Canada, Japan, and the UK. The conference was initially planned to be held in Rhodes Island, Greece. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions, the conference was held virtually on November 2, 2020, using Zoom. During the presentation, the audience was able to ask questions in the chat. These were answered by the presenter afterward.
Passion for software development
Winning an award can help build self-esteem, pride, and confidence. We at Cloudflight are quite pleased that our colleague was recognized as the best in her category. Of course, we wanted to know what is next for her after this outstanding achievement. “After our paper was such a great success, my advisor generously offered me a Ph.D. position in that field,” she recalls.
“I enjoyed the time I spent researching and working with my advisor, and I am very grateful for that experience. However, I decided against a scientific career in order to continue pursuing my passion for software development. I am ready to take on every challenge I may stumble upon.”