SURP Student Spotlight: Kanah Smith



Credit: Kanah Smith.

Kanah is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto from Brampton, Ontario. Her Major is astronomy and astrophysics, with minors in Environment & Energy and French Language.


What made you decide to participate in SURP?

When it came time for me to consider what career path I would take, I had my heart set on being some sort of research professor since I love both discovering and teaching, although I had no idea what my interests were within the context of research topics. When I reached out to some grad students to ask how they found the topic that they loved, I was told countless times that it was a journey of trial and error until a topic and research team that worked for them came along. So, I ended up applying for this summer research program that described exactly what I had been looking for: undergraduate research opportunities, along with fostering essential research skills and connecting students with a diverse network of astronomy/astrophysics professors, graduate and post-graduate students.

What is your favourite thing about SURP?

My favourite thing about this program is the community of students, professors and supervisors that has been established through workshops and lectures that have encouraged curiosity and created a welcoming environment for growth.

Can you tell us about your research project?

Our research project is working to create simulations of Tatooine planets (binary star systems with a planet orbiting one or both stars) where we place varying constraints on the orbit of the binary stars as they under-go tidal circularization and migration with one-another to see how these parameters dictate the orbital survival time or ejection of the planetary satellite from the system, which is defined by a specified radial distance from the primary binary star. Our goal is to determine the history of the binary stars and how these planets ended up orbiting in their system.

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

My undergrad work thus far has consisted of general knowledge of astronomy and astrophysics with the typical set schedule of lectures and examinations that accompanies undergrad; whereas SURP has allowed me to experience being a grad student for the summer and delve into a niche topic of interest.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to become a research professor later on in my career. For now, I am exploring my interests in research and considering grad school and maybe a PhD; but no one knows what the universe may have in store for them.

Kanah in front of St Mark’s Clocktower in Piazza san Marco, Venice, Italy. Credit: Kanah Smith.


Left: circumstellar “s-type” planets in binaries, individually around both primary and secondary stars. Right: circumbinary “p-type” orbits in binaries collectively around both stars. Credit: Kanah Smith.


This plot shows one of our primary simulations in which binary eccentricity and the semi-major axis of one massless planet was varied for a length of time of 10000 orbits. Credit: Kanah Smith.