Student of the Week: Kuunal Mahtani



Hometown: Jakarta, Indonesia 

School and Year: Entering 4th year, University of Toronto

Major: Math & Physics Joint Specialist program 

What made you decide to participate in SURP?

 I had grown an interest in the work that was being conducted at CHIME and thought it would be a great experience to work for them. Before joining I hadn’t considered astronomy as a prospective future research path for me, however upon reading up on it a bit I instantly got hooked and wanted to learn more! I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had this amazing experience – and now am considering pursuing astronomy in graduate school!

What is your favourite thing about SURP?

I love being able to collaborate with people on interesting, novel research, and being able to meet new people with common interests in physics. Moreover, the vast amounts of support provided for my work by my supervisor and superiors has been overwhelming and highly encouraging; I feel that I have been able to improve on both my work as well as my overall capabilities greatly as a result.

Can you tell us about your research project?

My research over the summer focuses on studying differences between scintillation patterns from Pulsars over the pulse phase. I’ve been using Dynamic and Secondary Spectra to investigate the scintillation patterns of pulsar signals, and have been creating these spectra in several points along a pulse’s phase. Comparisons between these spectra have allowed us to investigate whether the signal from a pulsar takes a different path travelling through the ISM before reaching Earth between pulse phases.

Can you explain how SURP has perhaps been different from your undergrad work?

The overall sense of community offered by the SURP program is really what stands out to me when I consider how SURP has been different from other undergrad work. From interesting weekly lecture and professional development series to weekly meetings wherein I was able to show my recent work and ask for feedback on it, and weekly discussions of interesting papers there are always people I can talk to about our research; whether that be for feedback/help or out of interest in the work that they are doing. I found that in spite of the pandemic and the online learning environment the organizers and my supervisor did an amazing job of making sure that we had maintained a sense of close community.

What are your plans for the future?

After graduating from U of T I plan to pursue a direct to PhD program in graduate school – at the current moment I plan to apply to several universities for research in both Astronomy and Higher Energy Physics. At the moment I’m not sure which of the two I enjoy more, this summer experience has really opened by eyes to research in Pulsars!





2020 Student of the Week Archive

Jeff Shen

Sarah Thiele

Lechun Xing

Caleb Lammers

Nikki Frazer

Michael Poon