I will be retiring in a few months with a successful research career in industry (>100 journal papers, >300 conference presentations, >50 patents). I am interested in doing research in an academic lab after retirement. My current expertise is in applied plasma physics, but I am interested in doing research in either astrophysics or biology. Any suggestions on on how to find such opportunities or how does one get involved in research in a new area when one is 60+? I won't be concerned about compensation and I am well adept at the numerical, statistical and mathematical methods employed in research.

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    Please don't work for free, you might displace a new researcher who actually needs the money. If you find a position and don't want it, go ahead and donate it somewhere but working for free in research sets a bad precedent. Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 19:03
  • Seconding @AzorAhai's comment: I think it is important to not inadvertently displace young people by, in effect, massively under-bidding them. It's not that "old people" don't have a right to compete due to age, but that "low-balling" (usually because one implicitly has vast extra resources) is an economically and socially disruptive activity. Don't do it, is my advice. But, yes, in other regards an ideal, low-stress situation for you (and for people who'd otherwise have to worry about assisting you in your career). Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 22:11
  • @AzorAhai i would say don't work for free period. In research or anything. As a musician, the expectation of free work is near universal. Tangentially, at school they had posters up all over saying "friends don't let friends play gigs for free" (or something like that)
    – user94036
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 0:27
  • @user94036 Also true! Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 0:41
  • What country? In some places it may be tricky due to work regulations.
    – Miguel
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


This is harder to answer because you seem to want to change fields. Otherwise, and if you are near to a research university, you could just ask to be allowed to attend research seminars in the field you already know. You would probably be welcome and could give some help to various students with their own research.

However, to change fields, there are things you need to know to get to the research frontier in the new field. I assume you know this, of course. The ideal way, assuming that money is no issue, would be to apply for another degree in the new field. If it is close enough to your current interests it would probably be expedited to some extent.

But the way to get good advice is to visit some place that you might be interested in and talk to researchers there. I'm guessing that this would be easier with a university than elsewhere. Even better if you already have some research ideas. But note that the request is a bit unusual and many places don't have the time or inclinations to do things that don't fit a given mold.

Top research universities differ quite a lot in what is possible. Some might be extremely rigid about rules and requirements and others might be extremely flexible. So you may need to look around a bit.

There is one additional issue, however, that might get in your way. If anyone starts to think that by working for "free" you are displacing someone else who might be early in their career, you won't be terrifically welcome. You will need to finesse that.

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