I am in a STEM field, my advisor is a theoretician, and my work is mostly experimental. My job is to implement an idea that exists purely in theory and see how it holds up in practice.
Recently, my advisor asked me to look into doing an experiment based on theory which he had published several years prior (but which was itself not substantiated by any experiments).
I initially had reservations, as I felt the paper he had published used a model which was simply not realistic enough to be useful in practice, and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to run experiments to prove his theory. I did not voice these, as at the time, I was a very junior student who knew very little, so this was just my gut telling me that this probably wouldn't go well, but I might as well try and see what happens.
After spending a lot of time (roughly 8 months) implementing his ideas, and testing them first-hand, I came to the conclusion that his model does not work in reality for a multitude of reasons. He seems convinced that I am doing something wrong and has even harshly compared me to others, saying "if I gave this task to X, they would have easily done this experiment in a week". While I could have believed such a statement at the start of this project, I am now convinced, based on my own expertise, that he has no idea what he is talking about, as all the work he does is in theory-land, and he has never done experimental work before, and doesn't understand fundamental differences between theory and practice. But he is adamant and told me if I don't finish this project with good results to meet a certain deadline, then he would probably have to stop supporting me with funding.
Three big problems:
- He has a big ego, and is convinced his theory holds in real life, even though he has no experimental experience.
- It's just me and him on the project, so there is no unbiased third party that is also an expert on the topic whose advice we could use.
- He is operating from a sunk cost fallacy: "I spent so much time and effort on this student so he better produce something rather than spend all this time to get a negative result. Might as well get rid of him, so give him an ultimatum".
Is it time that I finished working with this professor and his doomed projects ?
I see little recourse, given the circumstances, and am curious what course of action other intelligent people would take in such a situation.