News Releases

Student awarded $10K to update Homestake-era ventilation at Sanford Lab
Release Date Wednesday, June 4, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (June 4, 2014) – Long before the days of dark matter, the Sanford Underground Research Facility was the Homestake gold mine. While the facility currently operates its original ventilation system, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology mining engineering senior Tyler Artz has been awarded a $10,000 RESPEC Undergraduate Research Grant to create a new ventilation model 4,850 feet underground.

Artz’s research will focus on producing an up-to-date computer model of the facility’s ventilation system, which currently uses fans designed for the old gold mine, making a reevaluation of the quantity and quality of air crucial. This model can then be used to analyze the current underground environment and find areas for improvement.

He will use these findings to dilute the contaminated air of radon, dust and diesel particular matter; control the temperature and humidity to create a comfortable work environment; and maintain an adequate supply of air flow – all while optimizing fan production and reducing costs.

The RESPEC award will also allow Artz to present his research at two conferences next spring: the Society of Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration in Denver, Colo., and the Application of Computers and Operations Research in the Mineral Industry in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Artz, of Redfield, explained there is a shortage of ventilation professionals in the mining industry, and he looks forward to the opportunity to become one of them. With an eye towards a master’s degree and his career, he noted “this ventilation project will be a great step towards my future endeavors in the mining industry.” Artz said he looks forward to collaborating with Bryce Pietzyk, ventilation engineering at Sanford Lab, and paving the way for other students to pursue research opportunities there.

“Thanks to our industry partners, a deserving student will have the opportunity to explore an important research topic his senior year, underscoring the value of a research experience in science and engineering education,” Mines President Heather Wilson said.

The award comes as part of a larger commitment by RESPEC of $250,000 over five years to the School of Mines’ research efforts. RESPEC has committed to match employee donations up to a combined total of $50,000 per year for five years. A portion of the funds will be used immediately to support research, and the remainder will be endowed for the same purpose. Endowments allow the principal to be invested with the earnings funding the annual awards, thus enabling the fund to continue in perpetuity.

“We are truly excited about the impact this program has achieved in a very short time. The quality of the proposals speaks to the growing need to support research at the undergraduate level. It is getting more difficult to identify a single proposal to support. This program is a great example of the power that can be achieved through public/private partnerships,” said Todd Kenner, Ph.D., president and CEO of RESPEC.

Mike Selzer, president of the SDSM&T Foundation, underscores the importance of this collaboration. “The partnership between RESPEC and the university continues to be a way that we can work with companies to provide outstanding graduates and great employees. We hope other companies will see this as a way to further their interests and get them connected to the university’s best and brightest students.”

The first RESPEC grant was awarded to Aditya Chivukula Venkata, whose research focused on the feasibility of implementing fly ash as a sportive barrier for the neutralization and remediation of acid mine drainages and mine tailings.

A Rapid City company founded in 1969 by five School of Mines professors, RESPEC has grown to become an acclaimed national leader in mining and energy, water and natural resources and information technologies. It has 11 other offices throughout the United States and annual revenues of more than $35 million.

The company counts more than 50 Mines graduates hired since 1972, with 36 alumni currently employed by RESPEC. Five Mines alumni serve on RESPEC’s Board of Directors.

Learn more about RESPEC at and the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology at


About SDSM&T

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is $62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at