An Elizabethtown College Computer Science and Data Science major is working with a pair of professors this summer to create an easy-to-use and secure data-transferring system for organizations and universities that is built on Blockchain technology. 

The independent student research and collaboration with Etown faculty mentors, is part of the Summer Scholarship, Creative Arts and Research Projects (SCARP) program.

Learn more about SCARP.

Title of Research

SECTOR: A Web-based Data Management and Sharing System Secured by Blockchain

Student Researcher

Matthew Grohotolski ‘22 – Computer Science and Data Science

Faculty Mentors

Jingwen Wang

Peilong Li

What are you researching?

Since the advent of technology, securely transferring data between two computers over the internet has been a difficult task. This is especially true for organizations and universities who want to take advantage of technology to securely transfer or share data. Although many file transfer services exist, none have achieved secure transfers while also offering a friendly and easy-to-use user Etown professor and student standing on either side of a computer monitor, smiling at camera. interface. 

SECTOR uses an existing secure transfer service called Globus to conduct secure file transfers and has built a safe and secure user permissions system on top of their functionality. All data used by SECTOR is stored on a distributed ledger using Hyperledger Fabric, which is built upon Blockchain technology. Because data is stored on a distributed ledger, the data of its users stay safe and out of the hands of potential hackers while also allowing greater data access and less downtime for SECTOR in case an institution goes offline. 

This is a joint project by Elizabethtown College and the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML). We have partnered together to work on this project and I am working alongside members from UML to develop the site and data aspects of SECTOR. In addition to our two universities working together, UML is also in contact with the University of Wisconsin – Madison, which is our primary way of testing new developments with the website and will eventually use the site to transfer their sensitive project files between their internal groups and other universities.

Why did you choose this topic?

This project was initially brought to my attention by Dr. Li as he has connections to UML by previously attending their University. After hearing about the project, I was fascinated by their use of Hyperledger Fabric to store data and decided to assist by becoming a Full Stack Developer to create the website and further their previous development with Fabric.

What is the most interesting aspect of this research?

The most interesting aspect of research for this project is Hyperledger Fabric and how it’s used to store data securely. Fabric stores its data in what’s called a distributed ledger, meaning multiple organizations can assist with hosting the data for the project. If one organization loses power, for instance, the data is still accessible for the website and there is no downtime due to this kind of disruption. 

Utilizing Fabric also means the data stays secure since the data is only accessible through the machine hosting the website. This helps us maintain HIPAA compliance to transfer sensitive information such as medical information between organizations.

How have your faculty mentors helped you throughout this experience?

Dr. Li and Dr. Wang have had a profound impact on my performance with my SCARP project as they’ve been able to provide guidance during difficult situations when coding. 

Hear from a Faculty Mentor – Jingwen Wang

“The existing cyberinfrastructure for inter-institution data sharing faces challenges. For example, the patient data collected at a medical school cannot be readily shared with data scientist collaborators from a nearby institution due to location, network access control, etc. To make the data-sharing more secure and reliable, we focus on build a secure inter-institutional data-sharing platform with blockchain technology in this project.

“Matt really showed his passion for this project when working with Dr. Li and me. He is a motivated learner as he always tries his best to come up with a solution for the problems we’ve had when working on the project.”