Background about me
I am an early-to-mid-career teaching-track faculty (four years of cross-curricular teaching experience in engineering) in the USA. I teach courses both at the undergraduate and graduate level. I also try to keep up with research and publish a conference or journal paper or so every year. It is hard work and my maturity is growing.
(About ten days ago, my research was identified by a rather senior faculty member (twenty years of research and consulting experience with multiples millions of dollar in grant money and more incoming) as being quite promising. I had a rather pleasant conversation with him and he was genuinely interested in my work and wanted to collaborate. Happiness abound!)
A few days ago, his PhD student stopped by my office to discuss my research. There are some common ideas I and the student are both working on. I found that although he is a smart student (yet to pass his PhD qualifiers), his attitude was a little off-putting with a superiority complex I have not sensed in the hundreds of students I interact with every semester. He wants to collaborate with me but kept saying things like “you should do ...” and “you could do ... for my research”. It is okay for a student to suggest a line of action, but I still feel that an instructor–student distance should be maintained. I certainly did not speak to my adviser in such a fashion and neither did my colleagues (to their advisers, during their PhDs).
I appreciate the exchange of ideas but I am somehow repelled by the idea of a student who I have barely only met has a superiority complex. This probably stems from him working with an adviser who is pre-eminent in his field.
I know that working with this student would likely lead to being co-PI on research grants but somehow, as mentioned earlier, I am repelled by this idea.
Is this common in academia, to come across PhD students with such a high superiority complex? Am I just being overly conceited and self-absorbed by feeling repelled? I am not sure if the student met with me on the behest of his adviser, but my gut feeling is to communicate research ideas directly with his adviser. At the same time, I feel that ignoring the student could impact my relationship with his adviser (unfounded fear perhaps, but I don't know).
I am reaching out to the larger advisers on this forum to get some perspective and thoughts on such situations. This is an immense opportunity for me to break into prominent research ranks after somewhat wallowing in teaching.