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I am in math and I am fairly new in supervising PhD students, so I need some advice. I have a fairly good student who has made very good progress initially. But after a promising start, he's been stuck at the same problem for over one year, without making any progress. I have at a few occasions suggested that he should try another problem. He would then spend one or two weeks on another problem, but then he would always get back to the original problem with some new approaches/ideas (which still haven't turned out to work). He seems to have grown attached to this problem and feels that it would be a waste to abandon on something he's been working on for so long. I obviously admire his persistance and I always feel bad to discourage him from working on something he feels passionate about. But at the same time, I am worried that the longer he spends on this problem, the less likely he would be willing to move on and eventually give up altogether. What would you do in this situation?

Thanks in advance.

1 Answer 1

From the student perspective, and also a teacher. It would be good to have an informal meeting along with tea and discuss the matter. You can tell your honest opinion about the problem, the timeline and the progress. Ask him that instead of working in this problem it will be better if we go for that problem so that we both have interest as this probkem is taking too much time and i feel bad that you are working alone on that problem and my supervision is of nonuse in this case.

Dont tell him that you wasted time with no result/progress on this problem as he will try to prove his self and work on the same problem just to prove that he did it or will give up considerin him self a low performing student.

The more friendly environment you keep the better results you can expect and control as well.