I had some Ph.D positions available to me after my undergraduation which I could not take owing to some personal reasons and instead chose to take an industrial job which basically is also research based. However, the environment is not heavily research based and the collaborative opportunities are less, with . The prospect of doing a Ph.D while being in the industry is also miniscule. I have published research in good journals during my undergraduation and while in job too, and deeply desire to publish more and enjoy the research process. However at times, I feel directionless and without guidance, I have to spend too much time going through relevant papers/books which at times lead to diversions which I realize at a later time. I have some questions which I would be grateful to, for the answers.

a) How should I increase collaborations in this scenario? I participate in conferences whenever I can get chance, however I feel I don't have the pre-requisite subject knowledge in depth which a Ph.D student would have. Thus I feel hesitant in communicating with researchers. For this, I try to study course books relevant to the topic.

b) How can one avoid and know diversions from the research topics in absence of someone to discuss with? What role does peer group play in a graduate school in such scenarios ?

  • What is your area of research?
    – kosmos
    Jul 14, 2020 at 13:48
  • I mainly work in complex systems in the Natural systems (Earth, Ecology etc) context. It is mainly theoretical work involving non equilibrium statistical mechanics, graph theory, non linear dynamics etc.
    – jvb
    Jul 15, 2020 at 14:12
  • It seems you do need a lab for that.
    – kosmos
    Jul 16, 2020 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


I do not think that you'd be limited in publishing your research results or finding collaborations if you do not have a PhD. You pretty much need a PhD for the academic career path, basically if you want to become a professor some day.

The major issue is if you are able to support yourself doing what you do. And if you can allow yourself to do research, and to do the research you want to do, while working in the industry.

To give an example, Peter Montgomery published his multiplication long before he obtained his PhD, while he was working in the industry, as far as I understand his circumstances.

  • Thanks a lot for answering.However, I think a Ph.D should be important in contexts outside academia too. It does add a different perspective and innovation.
    – jvb
    Jul 15, 2020 at 14:15

I know of a researcher in computer graphics who has won two awards from the Academy for his contribution to CGI. He just completed his PhD with my supervisor. He actually has a better profile than his supervisors combined. While doing his PhD he also was a secondary supervisor a few students.

In this day and age where things are going digital so fast, you have a large number of essential courses online. So you can learn at your pace. Unless you need a lab to do research, say involving wet work, I do not see why you cannot do research by yourself.

You say you attend conferences, this is the place where you look for collaborators. That is the main purpose of attending conferences. You get new ideas, you interact with people and you forge collaborations.

Why not talk to your undergraduate professors you already published with and continue collaborating. A large number of researchers do that.

  • Thanks a lot for the answer. I am already working with my undergraduate mentors and am continuing collaborating outside regular job.
    – jvb
    Jul 15, 2020 at 14:14

In my experience, the only way that academic researchers will take you seriously is if you begin to answer some of their questions, build on their results, or take their research into a new and interesting direction. Eventually they will notice, and collaborations may be possible then. But I think first you must demonstrate that you understand their work by doing something with it.

Reading tons of books to build up knowledge is mostly a waste of time. Just find 5 or 10 papers that really interest you, and go from there.

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