I have received my MSc degree and I want to apply for Ph.D. programs.

I have an idea for an invention (this idea came from my master’s thesis), but it is not completely related to my field – I will need help from people of other fields to design this application. The idea is new and it is not registered yet.

Since I am graduated, I don’t have any access to the university. How should I approach a professor to team with me for this work? Is it possible? If yes could you please give me a piece of advice or sample emails?

BWY, I'd like to study in a foreign country as well, e.g., in the USA.

  • This should possibly be another question. Because the idea is coming from a thesis, could your advisor or that university have any claim to the idea?
    – mkennedy
    Jan 12, 2018 at 19:39
  • I don't think so. because my supervisor couldn't help me completely. he does not have the knowledge of designing this application.
    – nikki
    Jan 12, 2018 at 19:53
  • Just because your advisor "couldn't help [you]" isn't a strong enough claim in the event of a dispute over the rights to the intellectual property. Jan 13, 2018 at 1:57
  • @Glen Pierce, he will be part of the project. I don't want to do it on my own. my problem is finding another professor and a student.
    – nikki
    Jan 13, 2018 at 7:29

2 Answers 2


You can always contact professors in order to team up, however it will probably be the case that they will provide PhD students to team up with you. This is just a matter of communication and I don't think that is the real problem here.

The idea not being registered yet raises the real issue, because if you start to emailing everybody to try find a team someone may find the idea interesting and start working on it. Then comes the question is it possible to register the idea like in a patent or something? If not, is it possible to publish a paper about it on a conference, this would be a way to turn the idea public but with an authorship kept.

Another thing related to the team item is that you should first get an adviser and be accepted for a PhD program and then you should worry with the team up for the implementation, maybe even with your adviser help.

  • In fact, I want to continue my Ph.D. in the field that is much closer to the new field. It would be a switch actually. That is why I want to do it before starting my Ph.D. I want to take the advantage of my idea to get into the new field.
    – nikki
    Jan 12, 2018 at 19:17
  • @nikki2 but you don't have the expertise to work your idea on your own right? Can you at least find a list of potential professors to approach? There is always an amount of risk. If the idea is potentially a product you could consider using it in the industry instead of as a PhD thesis.
    – prmottajr
    Jan 12, 2018 at 19:25
  • yes, I don't have enough expertise to work my idea on my own. That is the problem. I do not know how should I learn and who should I contact.
    – nikki
    Jan 12, 2018 at 19:29
  • 2
    @nikki2 you have to break your problem in parts. First you have to know which is the field that could work your idea and then try to find who are the professors that work on similar things. One strategy would be to go to your local university and find which department works with that and try to get some orientation. In this scenario, it seems more feasible to have a PhD that is part in your country part in the USA through some kind of partnership.
    – prmottajr
    Jan 12, 2018 at 19:35

This is somewhat complicated, because including the professor puts it within the domain of the university, and universities claim ownership of some portion of intellectual property, especially patents. In fact, professors often have to negotiate with the university's legal department regarding royalties from said patent. As you have no affiliation with the university, it is unclear how that negotiation would work, but I'm not an attorney. Of course, this all assumes your idea comes to fruition.

In the mean time, it would be in your best interest to clearly document this idea, in as specific terms as you can, and email it (to the professor when it becomes appropriate, and to yourself as well). This is important because part of the patent process is establishing who originally formulated the idea, and the more documentation you have (with date/time stamps and your name), the better.

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