Protocol Labs Research

Karola Kirsanow

Research Program Manager / Network Research


PhD in Human Evolutionary Biology, 2009

Harvard University

MSc in Archaeological Science, 2004

Oxford University

BA in Archaeology, 2002

Cornell University

Karola holds a PhD in Human Evolutionary Biology from Harvard, where she worked on reconstructing palaeoenvironmental conditions relevant to hominid evolution. She has also conducted palaeogenetic research into modern human adaptations to diet and climate. She is broadly interested in complex networks of interaction in both natural and artificial contexts, and she is excited to support research into building resilient distributed systems at Protocol Labs.

Areas of Expertise

Biological networks, Human genetics

Blog posts

2022-10-07 / News, Team
Raymond Cheng joins PL Research
We are excited to welcome Raymond Cheng to the Protocol Labs Research team. We asked Raymond about his journey to Protocol Labs, the projects he will be working on, and his thoughts about future technological developments:
2022-09-16 / Blog
Gitcoin Grants Round 15: getting DeSci on the SamePage
Protocol Labs is excited to support the Decentralized Science Matching Grant Funding Round in Gitcoin’s GR15, now live until 22 September, 2022. The Gitcoin Grants Program uses quadratic funding to leverage small contributions across a large and diverse network of contributors into large impact –- a new Web3-native way of sustainably funding public goods projects.
2022-08-08 / News, Grants
Announcing RFP-014: The one with private retrieval
Can we speak privately? Unfortunately, our current options for private communication are limited, hamstrung by their reliance on a single-trusted-origin data publication model, high latencies, and security vulnerabilities. We think it is possible to design a scalable system that doesn’t sacrifice latency for privacy.
2022-07-25 / Blog
Announcing the first award for RFP-011, "Changing the Internet"
PL Research is pleased to announce the first research project funded as part of the Changing the Internet Initiative: a project by Scott Shenker of ICSI and UC Berkeley, Arvind Krishnamurthy of the University of Washington, James McCauley of Mount Holyoke College, and Aurojit Panda of NYU to improve acess to Web3 services by creating a better client interface and user experience for accessing Web3 content.
2022-06-30 / Blog
New open problems in private data retrieval
tl;dr: We’d like to develop additional protocol-compatible primitives allowing users to interact privately with Web3 content. Central to the Web3 vision of an open, permissionless, and decentralized internet is the ability of parties to interact directly and privately with each other while retaining ownership of their data.
2022-06-20 / Blog
Network Research and Bacalhau at DeSci Berlin
The Network Research team was excited to participate in DeSci Berlin, an amazing and very energized “unconference” that brought together researchers, technologists, and enthusiasts of science and web3 to discuss current problems and opportunities in the practice of science and workshop on how blockchain and decentralized technology can solve them.
Sílvia Bessa , Karola Kirsanow , Joel Chan, Matt Akamatsu
2022-05-26 / Blog
A Public Goods experiment on Filecoin: Retroactively funding impact with Quadratic Voting
The PL Network Goods team launched a quadratic voting funding experiment on Filecoin repositories with the help of maintainers and storage providers, rewarded community contributors, and built retroactive funding infrastructure for broader application.
2022-04-08 / News, Team
Matteo Campanelli joins CryptoNetLab as a Research Scientist
CryptoNetLab is pleased to welcome Matteo Campanelli to the team as a research scientist. Matteo previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University (with Claudio Orlandi) and at the IMDEA Software Institute (with Dario Fiore).
2022-03-30 / News
New research opportunities from CryptoEconLab
The hard-thinking research scientists of the CryptoEconLab have developed a set of research questions that are particularly appropriate for scoped independent work. These questions can be used to design an MSc thesis or PhD industry-experience project for students in computer science, statistics, complexity science, economics, or related areas, or as the basis for independent research.
2022-03-28 / News
Funding the Commons
The Network Goods team at Protocol Labs recently held the second in a continuing series of events bringing together researchers and thought leaders to discuss novel experiments and future directions for funding our collective commons.
2022-03-07 / News, Team
Dario Catalano to advise CryptoNetLab
CryptoNetLab is excited to announce that Dario Catalano will be supporting the team as a research advisor. Dario is a professor at University of Catania, where he investigates questions related to reducing the gap between theory and practice in cryptography, with a particular focus on developing advanced yet efficient encryption mechanisms and designing secure distributed digital signature schemes.
2022-03-07 / News, Team
Meet Alex Terrazas, CryptoEconLab TPM
We are excited to announce that Alex Terrazas will be guiding and supporting CryptoEconLab as a Technical Program Manager. We asked Alex about his journey to Protocol Labs, the CryptoEconLab projects he will be working on, and his thoughts about future technological developments:
2022-02-17 / News, Team
Tom Mellan joins CryptoEconLab as a Research Scientist
CryptoEconLab is pleased to welcome Tom Mellan to the team as a research scientist. Tom has spent the last two years modeling infectious diseases at Imperial College London. The backbone of this research centered on the messy intersection of science, maths and policy; asking simple questions like: what’s happened and why?
2022-02-07 / Blog
Changing the Internet

How do you design a general-purpose global communication network? That is the question facing researchers and inventors hoping to create a new internet.

2022-01-24 / News, Team
Sílvia Bessa joins PL Research
We are excited to welcome Sílvia Bessa to the Protocol Labs Research team. We asked Sílvia about her journey to Protocol Labs, the projects she will be working on, and her thoughts about future technological developments:
2022-01-19 / News, Blog
Open problems in incentive research
CryptoEconLab is the PL hub for research in cryptoeconomics, an emerging interdisciplinary field investigating the dynamics of economic coordination games in cryptographically-secured peer-to-peer networks. CryptoEconLab stands at the intersection of computer science, network science, statistics, economics, psychology, decision neuroscience, and system engineering, and the problems it explores have strong resonances with the field of complex systems theory.
2022-01-14 / News, Team
Axel Cortés Cubero joins CryptoEconLab
We are excited to announce that Axel Cortés Cubero has joined CryptoEconLab, where he will explore the dynamics of cryptoeconomic networks as a research scientist. We asked Axel about his journey to Protocol Labs, the CryptoEconLab projects he will be working on, and his thoughts about future technological developments:
2022-01-12 / News, Team
Introducing Patrick Woodhead, Retrieval Markets TPM
We are pleased to introduce Patrick Woodhead, the Technical Program Manager for the Retrieval Markets initiative. Research into data retrieval systems will be critical to the development of a CDN for Web3, and Patrick is helping to guide these efforts at Protocol Labs.
2021-10-29 / News, Events
ConsensusDays 21 recap and recordings
It was a calm day in early August when we launched a call for contributions for ConsensusDay 21, the launch event for our ConsensusLab. Originally intended to be an intimate, one-day virtual workshop aiming to foster discussion of consensus research and bootstrap a collaboration network, it soon became clear that it was growing beyond our wildest expectations – and certainly beyond what we had planned and were prepared to accommodate.
2021-10-08 / News
A retrospective on the ARPM program
Now that summer has turned to fall, we’d like to share some of the things we’ve learned and accomplished during this past summer with our Associate Research Program managers (ARPMs): Dwarkesh, Max, and Sam.
2021-09-15 / News
PL Research at MetaScience2021
Protocol Labs Research is excited to announce that we will be participating in the MetaScience 2021 conference: a global virtual conference spanning two weekends, 16-18 September and 23-25 September, to connect the study of science across disciplines, methodologies, and regions.
2021-09-02 / News
Introducing the microblog format
The PL Research blog is home to news about our software releases and conference presentations, deep dives into our techniques and tech stack, design reports, and updates about our new research initiatives.
2021-07-07 / News, Team
Marko Vukolić joins PL Research as ConsensusLab Lead
Protocol Labs Research is excited to announce that Marko Vukolić is joining us to establish and lead the ConsensusLab, which will explore and develop methods of coordinating distributed systems. We asked Marko why he decided to join PL Research, what he will be working on, and to share his thoughts about future technological developments:
2021-07-01 / News, Team
PL Research welcomes its first cohort of summer research associates
Protocol Labs Research is delighted to welcome our inaugural cohort of Associate Research Program Managers (ARPMs): Max Krieger, Dwarkesh Patel, and Samuel Tang are joining us for a 10-week summer research experience focused on metaresearch and research program management.
2021-06-01 / News, Grants
Introducing our new grant spectrum
Protocol Labs Research is committed to supporting the innovation needed to build our decentralized future. Today we are pleased to announce the expansion of the PL Research Grant Program to include a variety of new funding opportunities designed to support collaborative work on problems defined by the broader research community and critical to our work at Protocol Labs.
2021-05-27 / News, Grants, Microblog
COVID-19 Open Innovation Grant update
In the spring of 2020, as a rapid response to the COVID crisis, Protocol Labs launched an accelerated grants program to support open-source projects building tools to confront present and future pandemics.
2021-05-21 / News, Team
Adam Marblestone joins PL Research as an Advisor
We are delighted to announce that Adam Marblestone will be joining PL Research as an advisor. Adam is a neuroscientist and technologist who has conducted research in brain circuit mapping and quantum information theory.
2021-03-03 / News, Team
ResNetLab welcomes Barath Raghavan as a research advisor
We are pleased to announce that Barath Raghavan will be working with ResNetLab as an advisor. Barath is a professor of computer science at USC, where he co-leads the networked systems lab and conducts research across the fields of core networked systems, computing for social good and sustainability, and security.
2021-01-29 / Blog
AbstractionLab Update: notes from the frontier
The independent researchers of the AbstractionLab tackle ambitious projects with huge potential to drive breakthroughs in computing, communication, and decentralization. They are the scout ship pilots exploring the farthest reaches of the adjacent possible.
2020-11-23 / Blog
A research perspective on Filecoin, part two
In Part One, we traced the intellectual and technological history of modern implementations of distributed ledger technology. Now let’s take a stroll through the technological landscape around the time of Filecoin’s release:
2020-11-16 / Blog
A research perspective on Filecoin
The Filecoin network is launching in the middle of a revolution in internet architecture, where vulnerable centralized services dependent on trusted parties are being replaced with resilient decentralized solutions based on verifiable computation, and internet services are being relocated from inefficient central monoliths to the far reaches of the network by peer-to-peer markets.
2020-09-25 / News, Grants
COVID-19 Open Innovation Grant update
In the spring, as COVID-19 swept the globe, Protocol Labs quickly retooled its grant program and launched an accelerated grants program to support open-source projects building tools to confront present and future pandemics.
2020-07-27 / News, Team
Alfonso de la Rocha joins Protocol Labs Research
Alfonso is joining the Resilient Networks Lab (ResNetLab) as a Research Engineer. He comes to PL from Telefónica R&D, where he worked on blockchain-based technologies such as TrustOS. We asked Alfonso about his journey to PL, the projects he will be working on in the ResNetLab, and his thoughts about future technological developments: