Doing research while working full-time

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I am a software developer working for one of the top technology
firms. Although I get tons of opportunity to do innovative work,
each project that I get involved with quickly reduces in status to
being just an idea. We implement a system around that idea and call
the project done. We do patent such ideas which gives me a kick.
However, it does not allow me to build on it and publish a paper out
of it. I attribute most of this to my lack of research experience,
or lack of doing a PhD.

I did my Masters in CS from a top university. However, I did not get
an opportunity to pursue PhD from a university of my choice. So I
joined industry to gain experience in building technologies. The
best part of my job I feel is mathematical modeling. But the very
nature of the software industry doesn't allow me to do more of this.

I'm also an international worker, and so green-card considerations
and a fat paycheck are important for me. However, I continue to feel
frustrated by not being able to do research. Sometimes, I feel that
I cannot handle research and should perhaps go for an MBA instead
(herd mentality). MBA does attract me because of the lifestyle it
may lead me to. But I'm sceptical. Another reason why an MBA doesn't
attract me is that I can't find anyone with an MBA who has impressed
me, or whom I could consider making my idol. In academia, on the
other hand, there are tons of people who I would want to be like.

My current plan is to get into a part-time Maths MS program and try
to gain some research experience that way. It would be ideal to find
a research area that matches the actual work I do. Do you think it
is practical to do research while working full-time in a software
company ? If yes, do you think your answer will change if the
research area were completely different from my daytime work (say
computational biology) ?

I would really appreciate your response.


-- Gaurav Malhotra, April 22, 2009


Sorry for the late response... "Is it practical to do research while working full-time in a software company?" I don't think so. Private sector work is demanding and often involves long hours. Wallace Stevens was able to work as an insurance executive and write poetry, but those were different times and he worked in a government-regulated industry. Someone with an undemanding job in government could probably do significant work on the side.

-- Philip Greenspun, October 31, 2009