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I am willing very much to make a transition to a scientific position, but I am not sure what's the best way to do it. I would like to ask for your advice.

Let me describe my situation (it is quite specific, but it can be generalized):

  • I have completed PhD in Russia (at some provincial university, on knowledge representation and high-performance computing) which I am unfortunately not quite happy with (it could be better and I did it during my work at a company).
  • I have some publications, but none in top journals/conferences.
  • I have very diverse interests that span machine learning, knowledge representation, AI, algorithms, parallel programming, performance analysis, etc. I am trying to stick myself to just one direction: scalability problems of machine learning of big data sets, but well, there are so many interesting topics! :-) I visit summer schools on these diverse topics.
  • I live in Russia (province, so to say) and I still do some teaching and research advise in local university, but I am not a faculty staff and I refused to be one. The reason is that it only involves teaching, but I want to do research. Also, faculty members at Russia have extremely low salary that will not allow me to survive. But there is one group doing research in machine learning there (not a famous one by all means).
  • At the moment I am a software development engineer (in one of the top companies) doing research-like work in high-performance computing, but which is very applied. It is not always possible to publish a paper for the outcomes of this work, that's why it is not completely scientific/research. Also there are some software development tasks (previously I did it a lot, ~10 years).
  • I have a family (wife + son of 8 years + plan to have another baby in some future).
  • At the moment I am trying to do research work during my free time as much as I can, but it is not always very effective of course, because it is not my job. But I am trying to use every minute for this.

My goal: do scientific research. I believe that it is not very effective to do it as a hobby, so I am searching for a way to have a scientific position. I am ready to give a lot for it; I will be happy to have a medium salary, enough to support my family.

Possible ways to meet this goal:

  1. Go to Europe/US and do a PhD there. Not possible, because I already have a PhD and I won't be able to support my family.
  2. Go to Europe/US and do postdoc work. Somewhat possible, but:
    • Need to produce at least 2 good publications first.
    • Will I be able to support my family?
    • Postdocs are temporary positions. This could mean switching countries and it could be difficult for my son at school (due to language).
  3. Join research group at local university. I am going to do this, but it is temporary, I wanted to work with top people in this field. But it's good for the start.
  4. Join some research lab or faculty in university in Europe/US. Well, that's a dream, but I need to be more prepared for this.

My current plan is to do 3), do research and write papers on my own or with this group and then... I'll see. Though, doing research and writing papers on one's own is quite difficult, because you don't know what is important.

What could be your proposal in this situation?

My concerns are supporting my family and school studies of my son.

  • By "scientific position," do you really mean to say "research position?" And to what level of position are you aspiring? – aeismail Aug 8 '13 at 12:35
  • Thanks! Yes, I mean researcher position in some research lab or may be faculty position in some university with main focus on research inside some research group (I am ok with some amount of teaching as long as it allows research). With focus on the area that interests me (machine learning, high performance, etc). Regarding the level: I am ok with many levels and open to consideration as long as salary allows to support my family. I understand that I am not a top performer yet, so I can take junior level if it allows to grow. But of course, I am not ready for "research for food". :-) – Ben Sholov Aug 8 '13 at 15:35
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Since you already have a PhD, and have a strong work experience with one of the top companies with the research-like work, not to mention your published work that you have mentioned, you should be able to get a grant from one of the prominent universities in Russia. If not, then try a country where you can happily continue your research while still supporting your family. As Dexters above has suggested that, with your passion you have nothing to lose, it stands true if you keep trying and not give up just yet. In the meantime you could try to publish your work with the top journals. Good luck with your endeavours.

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Since you already have a phd, you don't need to prove your skills, if you are REALLY PASSIONATE about research, then you can do some soul searching to select a field, target a research lab, apply to a university in that country for a Master's Degree on a particular topic. Write to the professor famous in that research. Do your research home, spend 1 year on Masters , write a brilliant thesis on your field of interest. Publish it and try to apply for the lab that interested you. Usually MS students are not preferred, but since you have a Phd and you have a Master's thesis to prove that you are capable of research as well as proof to your passion for research, you can get a research job.

Worth a try, since you wont be spending another 5-6 years on Phd. Also this thesis publication could be your entry to a post-doc.

Regd your family and Son - you should save for your family and work part-time to cover for them. Depends on if your family is ok with you taking a risk for 1 year and leaving them in their own place.

If you indeed get post-doc, thats easily should be your choice. Since your son is only 8 years old, he should be able to pick up the language or teach him the language before you make a move to any country.

Edit:

Always remember that you can always live a normal life after a failure trying to get to top or to chase your passion. So it doesn't make a difference unless your family objects to it. Its just that most people so afraid of failures before even trying it.

All depends on how much you love doing research :) Good luck with your efforts!

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