Richard W. Schnee (2014)

Department Head and Professor

Physics (PHYS)


B.A., Princeton University
M.S., University of California-Santa Cruz
Ph.D, University of California-Santa Cruz

DAK 101 (campus map)
Research Expertise

My interests lie in understanding the Universe at its largest and smallest scales: what are the fundamental particles, how do they interact, and how have they created the wonders we see in the Universe. Central to these questions is the nature of the so-called “dark matter” particles that make up most of the Universe by mass but do not interact with light. Dedicated detectors may be able to identify such particles when they (very rarely) interact with regular matter. I collaborate on two “Generation-2” dark matter search experiments, SuperCDMS (in SNOLAB, Canada) and LZ (in nearby Sanford Lab in Lead, SD). My lab work focuses on reducing backgrounds for these and other experiments, especially those produced by radon, a noble gas that is radioactive. My group is working to reduce the amount of radon in room air, to detect minute amounts of radon, and to detect radioactivity on surfaces. We work on improving data-analysis techniques for current dark matter searches, and on detector development for future dark matter searches.

Brief Bio

I received my M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with research on the CYGNUS and Milagro experiments to learn about what astrophysical objects produce gamma-ray bursts. Since then, I have worked on experiments to detect the dark matter, first as a post-doc and then visiting assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, then as faculty at Syracuse University, and since 2014 as faculty (and now head of the physics department) here at South Dakota Mines.


I have taught courses at all levels, and I have earned teaching awards for both undergraduate and graduate teaching. I especially enjoy mentoring students in research. I typically lead at least 3 undergraduates per semester on Physics Design projects, real-life research on dark matter detection.

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