I'm looking for a phrase that describes a condition where one and only one person is doing academic research, from proposal to paper report - as opposed to the work being done in a team. The phrase "solo investigator" comes to my mind, but I don't think it is a formal term yet.

To attack this quantum physics problem, John is appointed as the team leader in a research group in Cambridge. Bob is one of the team members.

Their friend Adam is a solo investigator (?) tackling a similar problem in Boston.

  • 3
    Is it really that important to emphasize that someone is working alone? Feb 25, 2015 at 9:28
  • On an unrelated note, "tackle" is a better substitute for "attack" a problem.
    – Davidmh
    Feb 25, 2015 at 9:33
  • 1
    I would say "their acquaintance Adam is independently engaging with a similar problem in Boston".
    – Moriarty
    Feb 25, 2015 at 10:57
  • I think that this question cannot be answered unless we understand why it matters whether somebody is working alone. Few researchers are ever truly isolated...
    – jakebeal
    Feb 25, 2015 at 12:17
  • @StephanKolassa - Not sure about that, seems to me that while this is about English language the terminology is specific to academia. However, that's a lot of close votes... we can move if everyone thinks that's the right approach.
    – eykanal
    Feb 25, 2015 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


Working alone, their friend Adam is researching a similar problem in Boston.

  • Flying solo out in Boston sounds nice, too. Now I'm stuck trying to think of a single word for working alone.
    – Mazura
    Feb 26, 2015 at 2:40

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