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For some context, I’m currently enrolled in a PhD program doing computational research. I’m also interning at a fairly large company in their research group as a research scientist over the summer and the area of research aligns closely with my interests. I would probably even venture to say that the areas I’m exploring in the internship are more interesting to me than the stuff being done in my current lab (or any lab) at school (although we’ll see if that’s true this summer).

I’m wondering if it’s ever possible to do a PhD thesis with a company and what that potentially would look like? For example, can I continue working on my projects from the internship over the academic year to contribute to my thesis? Can I get co-mentored by both my PI and internship manager (previous PI in academia and I think well-known in the field)? Are there any opportunities I haven’t even thought about yet that might be worth exploring? If anyone has any personal experience they’d be willing to share that’d be much appreciated! Just want to know what options I might have moving forward. Thank you!

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    This very much depends on the research culture of the company. Does the company understand what a PhD degree entails? For example, it may want you to work on an engineering project (or implementation of an existing solution), which is not publishable or/and does not help you complete your degree. Another issue is intellectual property. This is usually the main hurdle. In addition, some companies may have an extensive or lengthy review process before they release any papers for publications. Feb 21, 2022 at 2:18
  • What is your country? PhDs as a collaboration contract between industry and academia are common in France and Germany, but the regulatory framework is very different. (I assume in the UK and US as well but I have no first-hand knowledge.)
    – EJM
    Feb 21, 2022 at 11:16
  • Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Feb 21, 2022 at 14:35
  • Thank you for the feedback, appreciate the insights! On first pass the research with the company seems more exploratory but I'll have to see if that's actually the case. I am based in the US, and the company is fairly large (ie like FAIR/Google AI/Microsoft Research/etc), I'm not sure if that changes anything.
    – Aaron
    Feb 21, 2022 at 14:48

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Better to look for the prior existence of such arrangements with other students who did the Ph.D. in the company. Personally, it all depends on your supervisor in uni and industry. Industries want to make a profit and they exploit technology and sometimes people who are developing it. So do professors in the university.

Note that in the industry your research will be constrained to what practical things can make money but you will be provided money and resources. In university, you can work on far-fetched ideas if you have a professor to support you.

If you like what is being done in the industry, take a sabbatical and continue that. It is important to do what you like and not what your university supervisor likes, or the industry manager. The advantage of working in the industry is you need not worry about the job after your studies or at least you have much brighter chances to land a satisfying job.

Best wishes!!

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