Catherine Forrest ’22 is using blockchain to change the world

student standing in front of computer display screen with a decorative graphic

From cryptocurrency to COVID-19 response technology, Syracuse University student Catherine Forrest ’22 is utilizing the power of blockchain technology to develop lifesaving security solutions. Catherine Forrest is a rising senior and fast track masters student at the iSchool majoring in Information Management and Technology, with concentrations in web design and data analytics.

As an iSchool student, Forrest worked to gain an advanced technical education in software development while further developing her natural talents in project management. Her diverse set of skills and passion for learning garnered the attention of the esteemed Professor Lee McKnight during her time enrolled in his “Blockchain Management” course. The two immediately began working together to further educate Forrest in blockchain. Not long after, McKnight became Forrest’s official academic mentor, turning her passion for software development into blockchain software development. Forrest’s love for blockchain technology in rooted in its ability to serve as an advanced security solution, in that “blockchains purpose is to create integrity and trust on a decentralized and distributed peer-to-peer network, where you don’t know who the peers are or If they are trustworthy.” She also notes that “the decentralized nature of the technology gives power back to the people, as they no longer need to relay on centralized power which can host a plethora of security flaws.

Forrest is the president of WiTec and the co-founder and interim co-president of CryptoCuse.

As the president of the established iSchool organization WiTec, Forrest has been engaging in undergraduate research on two grants she was awarded to fund her innovative blockchain research: “Creating & Blockchaining the COVID-19 Response MEWPUL Digital Twin” by the Syracuse University SOURCE, and “Blockchaining the IMcon Internet Backpack for COVID-19 Emergency Response in Rural Central America” by the Internet Society Foundation.               

Forrest was originally the CTO of CryptoCuse starting off on the technical side, however she has now shifted to an administrative leadership position. Forrest runs the club alongside co-founder and interim co-president Zachary Goldstein, with whom she created the blockchain start-up Edgucoin, a blockchain education platform and cryptocurrency. Forrest leads club communication, organization, delegation, and mission fulfillment, in addition to being the creator and manager of the CryptoCuse website. At CryptoCuse, Forrest’s expertise lies in the blockchain technology which empowers cryptocurrency. Forrest runs weekly and biweekly meetings for CryptoCuse this summer. The group is growing quickly and there are already about 42 people on the emailing list. When students return to his fall, Forrest expects even more people to join.

The values of CryptoCuse are education and collaboration, as it serves as a place where students can gain an education and engage in discussions in all that is crypto, blockchain, and DeFi. Forrest has made sure to make it a space which welcomes and caters to the needs of students with all levels of experiences present, beginner or advanced you are welcome at CryptoCuse. CryptoCuse meetings usually start with an introductions and mission statement, then go into an educational lecture, then are followed by an organization wide discussion of investments and of the market. The club is also working to provide members with hands on projects such as setting up nodes to blockchain and teaching people how to code smart contracts to create their own cryptocurrency. Interested individuals can look out for a cryptocurrency investment simulation competition, with the most successful investor winning real cryptocurrency.

CryptoCuse aims to be the epicenter for blockchain startups. Working closely with the Blackstone LaunchPad at SU Libraries, located in Bird Library, CryptoCuse encourages students to create their own cryptocurrency startups by giving them knowledge, education and confidence to pursue their goals. Although Forrest has only started engaging with the LaunchPad recently, she says that it is one of the coolest places on campus. She even sees herself being a mentor at the LaunchPad in the future.

The media circulates theories about trends, but CryptoCuse educates people with facts. Forrest recommends investments to be made in coins backed up by a company or a technology instead of following trends on social media.

Forrest says that it has been great working with her co-founder and interim co-president  Zachary Goldstein. However, Forrest is usually the only woman in the meetings and hopes to get more women involved in STEM. Nonetheless, there is great diversity in the club in regard to race, religion, ethnicity and background. Forrest believes that diversity and inclusion is an incredibly important component of an organization and has made it her personal mission to make sure both CryptoCuse and WiTec excel in this area. Forrest says, “No matter who you are, where you are from, you have a place at CryptoCuse and WiTec.”

Although very busy with work and school, Forrest makes sure she spends her time by staying active and working out every morning. Before COVID-19, she also played on the girl’s club iced hockey team at school. A 4-day backpacking trip through Yosemite is also on Forrest’s agenda this summer.

Forrest’s motivation and aspiration comes from wanting to develop technology that will help real people. Forrest recognizes the privilege she had growing up as a member of a middleclass white family. She realizes how much of a privilege it is to have access to a plethora of academic resources and financial support, enabling her to attend a school like Syracuse University. She missions to not let this go to waste, as she lives her life in the pursuit of utilizing her education and resources to provide opportunities and education to those less fortunate, hoping to help create a future in which STEM is much more diverse.

When prompted to provide a piece of advice for future entrepreneurs like herself, Forrest replied, “Hard work beats talent in every way and showing up is everything. If you work hard and show up, the world will open up in ways you couldn’t have never imagined. Attending Syracuse University is an absolute privilege, so don’t waste it. Take the time to build meaningful relationships with professors, these great minds can and will change your life.”

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied