Bear with me while I put some biographical information here.
I'm a bachelor of engineering graduate from India with approximately a decade of work experience in design, engineering and project management. I've got a real fascination for the following subjects:
- Optimization methods
- Chaotic and dynamical systems
- Data analysis and statistics (a field in which I work - as a quality management professional)
I have presented a couple of papers in international conferences in the first subject - based on work I did by teaching myself optimization methods. Learnt the ropes on researching papers/work, contacting researchers, running my own studies, writing concise papers, over many attempts in unpublished papers. I have only read books and papers on the remaining two subjects (#2 and #3) for over seven years but haven't really contributed anything significant or original.
Since I never was in the right financial state to pursue a masters or a PhD, I never earned one. I turned down an MS admit at Duke in 2010 for financial reasons too (didn't manage to secure funding). I considered and visited Indian universities including the IITs but find the entry barrier high for any univs worth going to, because I have a 7.0/10.0 GPA on my Bachelor's degree. Moreover, I hate going back and asking for recommendations from professors that I share no common interest with or who had no bearing or influence on my technical interests whatsoever. My mentors have all been in the industry, and all MS/PhD applications seem to want only academic recommendations, which I thought was stupid.
Having read a number of reports and accounts from researchers on the troubles PhD scholars face and the standard of life, I'm inclined to think that I wouldn't be happy giving up my job and my lifestyle (and compromising my wife's lifestyle) for a decade of research which may or may not lead to a PhD. I love the subjects but I'm looking for a way to learn and discover things in them without subjecting myself to the financial commitment that comes with a huge loan.
Is a life of independent research (something that is exciting for me personally) a viable way to move forward, or should I consider getting a formal research postgraduate degree? I'm eager to hear thoughts, advice, comments. Thanks for taking time out to read this.