I'm a professional programmer with 15 years of experience, working in game development as a game and engine programmer, currently working at a prestigious game company on two well known games.

I've submitted a paper to a graphics journal (jcgt.org), and am waiting on the review process. (2.5 months into an expected 3 month process!)

In the meantime I'm working on a computer science paper which doesn't pertain to game development, but is more related to cryptography and metaprogramming.

That realm is a little bit more of a challenge for me since it isn't my area of expertise, so I don't know as many obscure things, proper terminology, or what people expect to see, etc.

How would someone like myself - who is a professional with no academic ties - find a more academic minded mentor who knows more about these areas, that I could ask questions to, bounce ideas off, etc?

Or is that even a likely possibility?

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    Other than academics at universities, have you considered reaching out to the strongly research-oriented parts of your industry - like intel research, or certain groups at google, or...? There are lots of PhDs of all sorts. Maybe you have a friend or a friend of a friend in these places. A second idea is to attend conferences in fields of interest. They are not usually restricted to only university researchers. Nov 12, 2015 at 5:14

2 Answers 2


I think it this can be achieved. Here are some thoughts on how I would do it.

Many academics lack practical skills but require practical skills to evaluate and test their theories and get the publications they desire. These are the kind of academics who will be interested in working with you. To find them, you should first find areas of research that you are interested in where your skills are relevant. Find researchers in those areas who are looking for people with skills you possess (look for what they want for their funded PhD positions and Post-doc positions). Based on this information prepare a clear value proposition - a set of things which you can offer the researchers, and what you would want in return.

Make contact. Ideally do this through a mutual connection who is well liked and respected. If that is not possible then you should try to talk with the academic face to face or on the phone so you can make it as easy as possible and create trust more quickly. Academics are often very busy and cautious of having their time wasted so this is important.

The suggestion above might seem like it involves too much commitment, but you will almost definitely need to show you can provide some sort of return for an academics time before they will work with you so unless you can show how working with you will get them publications or grants they probably won't be interested in helping you with your personal interests.

With that considered, if you are successful with your journal publication you will have a much better chance as the academics will be able to see that you have what it takes to write papers and thus infer that you will be likely to be able to get more publications with relatively little help from others.


Method 1. Look for scholarly articles that get you really excited, and that are somehow related to what your own scholarly interests. Once you find half a dozen such articles, look up the authors. Find their home pages, find their CV's, their page describing current research interests. Choose three scholars that look like likely candidates for some level of collaboration.

Now that you've identified them, work on cultivating a relationship one at a time -- because one may be enough -- you might not need to proceed to #2 or #3. Here's how you do it: after reading one or more of this person's recent articles, you write an email saying you read such-and-so article(s) with interest, and you wonder if s/he has thought about such-and-so related aspect. Ask for recommendations of other articles about such-and-so. The length of this email should be about 100-300 words.

(Small vignette to inspire you: I was interested in a particular topic, looked for articles about it, only found one author who was working on that topic, wrote to her to ask for more information about specific aspects. After a couple of emails back and forth, she invited me to a skype conference. A few days later came an invitation to collaborate on a project. Most researchers really enjoy collaboration.)

Method 2. Attend a conference. Don't be shy about talking to people.

Method 3. Take a course as a non-matriculated student, or audit. Preferably in person, but online if necessary. Attend department seminars. Don't be shy about talking to people.

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