I’ve been working on a project for about 4 months simulating optics in a beamline for ANL. I’m the only person on the project developing the simulation. The software being used is brand new, open source and clunky. The documentation is poor (at best) with no real tutorial or users manual. There are consistent occurrences of bugs.

Anyway, I’ve been putting in 10-15 hr weeks and most of it has been spent learning the software and building summary PowerPoints (that have ultimately been deemed useless) based on examples in tutorial. That was the first 3 months. The pay period has since ended but I’ve elected to assist because I was led to believe the project would end shortly after and I’d be able to co-author a paper.

Now, it seems I have about 30(optimistic)-70(pessimistic) hours until I’m done based on what’s left. My advisor is bad and typically rejects any questions I have and says I simply have not been putting in effort. There’s little to no guidance in the project and my advisor always says how he could just do it himself much faster.

I have another project starting in a few days that will require 40+ hours a week that’s paid.

The combination of lack of respect for my advisor, other time commitments, and overall distaste for the project leads me to believe I should respectfully tell him I can’t continue working on the project.

Should I end it? If so, how should I go about it?

  • What are your goals? Why are you doing research? Anyway, I see no reason to continue with a disrespectful advisor. May 30, 2019 at 1:48

1 Answer 1


First, ask your advisor for the level of commitments to have a co-authorship on a publication. Do so in writing (e.g. via email).

Dear Dr. ...:

I am making plans for how best to complete the project. Since I am no longer being paid, I need to schedule my time properly. I am especially interested to contribute sufficiently for a co-authorship on a publication. Looking ahead, I cannot however make an unlimited and open-ended investment. In this regard, I have two questions that I hope you can address.

  • What remaining objectives do you need me to complete in my work toward a co-authorship?

  • How long do you anticipate that I should need to spend on the remaining work?

I look forward to a prompt response.


J P Bear

Second, prepare to leave.

  • Make photocopies of all notebooks that you kept.

  • Collect the electronic work that you have done to date. All of it. Every scrape. Organize it as best possible by themes (e.g. Reports, Presentations, Code, Raw Data, ...).

  • Burn it all on two copies of a CD or DVD. These are the immutable copies of the documents. You might need to find them again some time later. You can also store files in the cloud or on magnetic media. But, gosh what will you do when that cloud is sold to some third party who trashes your files or your magnetic USB stick happens to land in an NMR lab by accident, what then? Or, what will you do when you would be called to a court dispute about the co-authorship on a publication and you have a USB stick that ... well ... they will NOT accept as evidence in your case because it was not an immutable copy?

Third, generate a thank you letter ...

Dear Dr. ...:

Thank you for the opportunity to work under your supervision. I have appreciated the chance to learn how to program simulations for optics for the beam line at Argonne National Laboratories.

I am providing you with a CD that contains all of the electronic files that I generated over my project period. I am also submitting to you all of the notebooks that I kept with records of my work.

--> The wording in the next paragraph depends on what you did and did not discuss. It also depends on what you do and do not wish to continue doing.

[We discussed the possibility that my work will contribute to be a co-author on a publication. I am ready to assist in editing this publication when this decision is made. I am also willing to provide email or phone support to transition my work to the next team member.]

I can be contacted at the address below for questions.


J P Bear

Fourth, hand the letter, one CD, and all of the notebooks that you kept to your advisor.

Fifth, say goodbye and start the other project.

  • "Burn it all on two copies of a CD." .... it's not 2006 haha May 30, 2019 at 21:44
  • @AzorAhai I am glad to hear your recommendations for better alternatives to create immutable archives of relatively small segments of electronic data. May 30, 2019 at 22:30
  • Pretty much any other way there is of transferring data: email it, put in on the cloud (Dropbox, OneDrive, Box ...), or if you really like being able to lose your data, put it on a USB. May 30, 2019 at 22:37
  • I said immutable. Your methods are not. They are also subject to third party tampering. So, they are not certifiable. So, they are to be ignored. Try again perhaps? May 30, 2019 at 22:42
  • 1
    My long experience has trained me to store electronic files in an immutable format away from the cloud even today.. Paraphrasing a colleague of mine from other cases ... While the upside advantages to doing this seem to be minimal or even non-existent, the downside risks to not doing this are too high to avoid that you do not do it as a matter of some formal routine. I also do not say that files cannot also be stored in the cloud (or on other media). Finally, I can agree on the value of some of your suggestions. Perhaps you might stop implicating that mine are of lesser value (haha). May 30, 2019 at 23:39

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