My Master Thesis Defense Presentation

Leaving academia for a startup

Finishing up two years of MPhil degree, what’s next?

Park Ji Ho
5 min readSep 2, 2018

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Two years in Academia was great.

In Summer 2016, I decided to start a new life as a postgraduate research student in the area of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning. My primary goal was to become a person who can understand the field (able to read and understand academic papers to a certain degree) and can produce some valid research work (able to fully follow and complete a research cycle). After I had finally finished defending my Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and receive a pass, I feel confident enough to say that I know much more about the field than most people do.

I can imagine myself in academia, continuing being a Ph.D. candidate, becoming a research intern in one of those larger corporate labs in the US or China, and publishing more papers at conferences. These are the glorious moments. It gives a good comparatively advantage for chasing fame and fancy names on my career. I might even feel like solving bigger problems in the field that everyone wants to contribute.

Inevitable downsides are, of course, advisor-student conflicts, low salary, social detachment, and many other mental consequences caused from prior reasons that most Ph.D. candidates suffer. However, in this post, I do not want to talk about these common topics.

I choose to go back into the startup scene. This choice surprises many people, especially those I met in academia.

I want to draft out my thoughts on why I am choosing this path. Hopefully, it might be a useful reference for those people who have similar considerations.

1. Potential vs. Practicality

“Don’t you want to solve cool problems?” - from the pro-Academia side

The good thing about academia is that people get excited quite easily. They tend to value potential a lot. That is the primary purpose of research — aiming for works that can potentially be the next big thing and make our lives better. Nevertheless, many “cool” research gets discarded from the table. Many “cool” research may not be suitable for practical use, due to many reasons…

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