Thanks for all your comments on my last post. I agree that pondering fools method is the best method of adviser selection, with support for students for the first few years. Unfortunately, Center grants that support students like that are hard to come by and unlikely to be sufficient to accommodate our entering class of ~ 20 students. Thus, we are forced to explore other options. I'm not sure what the answer is (a department endowment?), but I can say this year I got one, very enthusiastic student, and I think I'm happy with that.
Next, I have a question for you. I have a postdoc who has been working for me for about a year. She came to me primarily because her husband is in the department and she wanted to stay with him. She liked my research and had worked in a tangential, but not closely related field to my own. She has been doing good work, but the project has not been working well. I think that what we have been getting is interesting because if we can describe why it doesn't work it could be a nice, influential paper. A lot of people are trying to make the same thing, and everybody except one group seems to be having the same problems, but no one has studied it in detail. However, she is beginning to lose heart. I think she sees that it is not working and wants to radically switch directions to something else with more promise. I want her to investigate the failure more thoroughly and publish what we have so it is not lost. I recently got back from two conferences where we presented this work and it was very well received by the audience. I really think we should publish.
My question is how do I keep this student motivated? I know that it can be difficult when things don't work and I want her to appreciate the beauty and possibilities of the project. I feel that she has lost interest and am not sure how to get it back. Any suggestions?