Mines News

Release Date Monday, April 17, 2023

High School Students Complete Real-World Data Science on Antarctic Neutrino Experiment at Mines

High school students in the annual IceCube Masterclass at Mines use actual data from the South Pole based neutrino observatory to “fish” for unique signals generated by phenomena coming in from the deep universe. The class is offered at several institutions worldwide that are part of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, including Mines.

South Dakota Mines will host high school students on April 20 who will take part in the annual international IceCube Masterclass. During the workshop, the students will get a chance to work with the actual dataset measured by the international IceCube Neutrino Observatory, located at the geographic South Pole.

South Dakota Mines Professor Xinhua Bai, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Matthias Plum, Ph.D., are astrophysicists who help lead a unique project with IceCube that utilizes the immense dataset measured by the world's largest neutrino observatory. Mines faculty and fellow researchers from around the world combine the signals in multiple detectors from outer-space to paint the most-clear picture possible of our universe.

High school students from across the region who take part in the IceCube Masterclass will dive into the experiment’s data and learn how to “fish” for unique signals generated by phenomena coming in from outer space; they will also compare the real data with Monte Carlo simulations to gain a better understanding of how scientists catch these cosmic messengers.

IceCube-2023-1Andrew Smith, Ph.D., teaches physics at Stevens High School in Rapid City and has sent his students to IceCube Masterclasses for several years. “My students benefit from gaining a glimpse into the world of scientific research by meeting with and learning from physicists. They are afforded a chance to discuss their thoughts with peers from across the region and are challenged to think critically about how best to synthesize experimental data and the lessons they are taught on particle physics,” says Smith. “It is wonderfully organized with the essence of a real scientific conference from the engaging and challenging lessons to the chance to manipulate actual neutrino candidate detection data, a conference lunch and time to reflect and ask questions. As a teacher, I directly benefit from the content knowledge but even more so by the enthusiasm it injects into students who are made more inquisitive and passionate about their studies as they see what they might do with physics in the future.”

The masterclass this year is led by Dr. Plum, who worked previously at the South Pole studying the chemical composition of charged cosmic rays measured by IceCube. His current work includes assisting in the development and design of the next-generation observatory IceCube-Gen2. “Since Dr. Plum joined Mines in 2021, he has been very passionate about education outreach. His expertise adds great asset to the IceCube group at Mines, which enables us to do more and better in research as well as serving the community through events like this,” says Bai.

The IceCube Masterclass hands-on workshop runs from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. on April 20, 2023, in the Electrical Engineering and Physics (EEP) building on the Mines campus. The class includes 45 students and four teachers from both South Dakota and Wyoming.

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About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu