In an interview for Nautilus, "twin prime hero" Yitang "Tom" Zhang gives insight into his personality and process, and offers advice to students tackling tough problems.
How long did you work on your conjecture?
I worked on my conjecture for four years. I worked on it seven days a week. I didn’t take any breaks almost. If we count the time I spent thinking about the problem, then it was more than 10 hours a day. If you count sitting in front of a desk or using a computer, then it was five or six hours a day. I was also teaching two classes per semester at the time.
Did you experience any emotions when you realized you’d solved the problem?
Not so much. I am a very quiet person.
What would you say to a young student who wants to solve a problem?
Keep going. Do not easily give up.
Where do you suggest they find the motivation?
The most important motivation is to really love mathematics.
Read the full interview.