I am an undergraduate student being paid a (relatively speaking) hefty monthly research stipend. I need only some of this money to pay off my university fees and living costs, since I have wonderfully generous parents.
The research projects I work on officially revolve around applied problems in math biology. Lately, I have been interested in Baez's work on "network theory", but because of full course load, along with the research project I am responsible for, I don't have the time to explore these ideas as I'd like to.
I have some ideas for pure math projects that involve extending Baez's nascent network theory ideas to problems in biology. I also have some ideas for tools that could be made in order to help a researcher formally analyze interaction systems.
These ideas are completely tangential to my own work (for the moment), although if I were able to set up the groundwork for them to the point where I am able to see that they do have potential, I'd love to bring it up with my professor.
One idea I have had recently is that I could hire my own "research assistants" out of my stipend (I am allowed to spend it as I like, right)? I could provide them with my motivations, and give them "guidance" (I don't know how capable I would be of this) through ongoing communication. This way, I would be able to explore my ideas, even if I don't personally have the energy and time to see them through right now. The alternative of course, is that I buckle up and find time from somewhere (e.g. by not writing this post) to work on the ideas, or put them away for a later date when I do have time.
So, is hiring my own research assistants at this time ethically questionable?