I work at a unversity in the physics department. Since quite some time, I have a very specific question regarding some equations and how they were rearranged into some result. I have asked my Professor regarding this several times, but I have never been able to get a clear answer and at this point I am "too afraid to ask once more". Of course, I am not really afraid but I have asked this so often that at some point it becomes somehow weird, especially since this is only some detail.
Now I have been assigned with supervising an undergraduate, who will write his Master's thesis about a topic which is very similar to the one I am working on. I can already see that he will come across the same question in the near future and there are several possible things I could do to answer the question if it arises.
- I could simply tell him that I don't know the answer. This would of course be OK but does not actually solve the problem. Especially since for his work a better answer to the question I am trying to get an answer to might be required.
- I could tell him that I asked this several times to the professor, but he either did not understand or was unable to provide an answer. This is the more factually correct answer but it sounds a bit accusatory and could put me in the position that the student tells the professor about this since I would be the first one whom he would ask and who should be able to provide an answer.
- I could ask the co-authors. In this case, the question would be whether I inform my professor about this. If I do so, he will ask me why and I probably end up in a position where I will have to ask the same question all over again, not to mention that he did not answer the question in a way I understand.