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International intern’s star simulations shoot for success

At a glance
The intern

Shyam Menon, Indian Institute of Technology – Varanasi

Hosted by

Professor Shantanu Basu, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Western University 

The research

Applying the latest in astronomy simulations to better understand star formation

As a young boy, Shyam Menon often looked to the night sky above with wonderment. He wanted to understand all there was to know about space and, in particular, about the stars and galaxies that make up our universe.

That love of space led him to study astronomy as an engineering student at one of India’s top universities, the Indian Institute of Technology – Varanasi, and this summer, to a Mitacs Globalink Research Internship at Western University, in Ontario. Supervised by Professor Shantanu Basu, Shyam is applying the latest in astrophysics research to further our understanding of star formation in our galaxy — and beyond.

Shyam is part of a research team that is applying the latest in code-crunching software to produce simulations of a galactic phenomenon known as accretion disks. These clouds consist of gas and dust that are known to accumulate during the early part of a star’s formation. However, the full extent of their role and behaviour in forming different types of stars remains largely unknown. And so Shyam and his professor are applying a simulation program in a new manner to study this problem and to interpret data from other astronomers. If successful, the program should produce more realistic simulations of the accretion disks. They hope that the new simulations will contribute to a better understanding of the disks’ behaviour, and by extension, star formation.

For his part, Shyam is enjoying a summer of research: “My professor is very friendly and helpful, so I am learning a lot from him and the team. The experience has given me a lot of really good exposure to what it’s like to do research.

“There’s a lot of good research coming out of Canada now, especially here at Western. In fact, I am thinking about research as a career and doing graduate school in Canada. I would love to come back!”


Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Globalink Research Internship program. In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with the following international partners to support Globalink: Universities Australia; the China Scholarship Council; Campus France; the German Academic Exchange Service; Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education, Tecnológico de Monterrey, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico; Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education; and Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Mission Universitaire de Tunisie en Amerique du Nord.