The consulting activity, on the engineering field, would be tightly related to the research, and in fact would help to get the real-world data and reality touch to make it prosper.

Is it possible, in a big University (UC system, Harvard, MIT, Stanford or any other major college) to combine both activities? Are there any general regulations to the matter or are they dependent of each institution policies?

In case it was possible, is there a salary cap for the total amount a PhD student can be earning?

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    It depends on your institution and on the contract you are working under. I would also consult with your supervisor. – henning -- reinstate Monica Apr 25 '17 at 7:40

One way or the other, you will have to disclose the activity to your university. I can't think of any obvious reason why your university would not allow you to do consulting work on the side. But in any case, talking to your adviser about it would be the correct first step -- she may be able to tell you what her expectations are if you are paid as a graduate assistant at the same time, but also what your university requires of you in terms of paperwork.

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    I've seen consulting-related provisions in PhD handbooks (University of Michigan as one particular example), which specify the concern: as a part of the doctoral program, they want to make clear that your work can reflect positively (or poorly) on them, so the program wants you to only accept assignments that do not interfere with the program, and which you have sufficient skill and expertise to handle at a high level of quality. In other words, the University doesn't want you to embarrass them by doing shoddy or otherwise unethical work. And they want it clear they aren't legally responsible. – BrianH Apr 25 '17 at 17:42

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