I am planning to take a break from industry (software) and want to work under a professor/lab on a research project for 3-6 months, computer science/computing related. I was wondering if people could give me some advice on how to go about achieving this arrangement - success tips, what not to do and the feasibility of this whole endeavour.
I'm in my late 20s. Went to a good UK school and got a decent GPA. I got what is known as an undergraduate masters (MEng), which for all intents and purposes is a BSc + MSc. I regret never undertaking a summer UROP placement while doing my undergrad. I've often wondered about doing a PhD (I kinda always thought I would) and this would be one way to get some kind of feel of what it might be like. Who knows maybe I will change my career and move into research.
I have some potential projects (though still a little vague) that I would like to work on, but I am also looking for existing projects that sound interesting to contribute to. My current plan is to reach out to professors that seem like a good fit with my research interests (by scouring their academic pages and published work). I'm yet to reach out to anyone. Actually that's a good question - would I have more luck joining an existing research project or proposing my own?
This potential opportunity is unlikely to happen again - I currently do not have too many responsibilities e.g. kids, a mortgage, etc. That and the window for me doing something like this is shrinking all the time. I want to make the most of it by going to go to what is considered a competitive school (not that I'm applying for a programme per se).
I also want to sample US university life (I have a degree from the UK), go to a new city and meet some new people.
What I hope works in my favour is I have the money to entirely fund myself - I've been working in the tech indusry for the last half decade. Hopefully this means I don't have to work within the confines of the academic calendar nor compete for funding. I am concerned about the legality of working for free - I have seen Nonpaid, volunteering position in a lab.
I understand what I am trying to do may be a little unorthodox, but if I was a professor, and there was an enthusiastic individual who has a decent academics and willing to give up 6 figures for a chance to work on something interesting to us both, then I'd like to meet them. Of course I'm nothing special and I could be a hindrance, but hopefully my work experience, previous academics and genuine interest abate these concerns. To academics reading this, imagine if it was you I contacted asking for this opportunity, what would make you consider me?
Anyway, if people could give me some kind of assurance if what I want to do is not out of the question (or let me know it is), along with some pointers on how to be successful in finding a position.
Really appreciate it, Thomas