Mines News

Release Date Wednesday, May 10, 2017

South Dakota Mines to Host International ‘Conference on Science at the Sanford Underground Research Facility’

The CASPAR project inside SURF is one of the experiments Mines researchers are involved in. Photo credit: Tyler Borgwardt

RAPID CITY, S.D. (May 10, 2017) – The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology will host the second “ Conference on Science at the Sanford Underground Research Facility” to address research related to the laboratory in nearby Lead, S.D.

South Dakota Mines scientists are involved in high-level research projects being conducted or planned a mile underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), home of the former Homestake Mine. Research at SURF could lead to a better understanding of the origins and make-up of the universe. Among collaborations are a next-generation search for dark matter, and the largest future experimental endeavor in neutrino physics, as well as other cutting edge research in nuclear and particle physics. Research at the Sanford Lab is being conducted in the same historic site where Ray Davis completed a Nobel Prize winning experiment on solar neutrinos. 

Scientists from national and international laboratories and research universities will attend the May 13-15 conference held on the South Dakota Mines campus in Rapid City, located about one hour from the Sanford lab. The conference includes trips to the Sanford laboratory and a tour of the Black Hills.

The list of speakers at the conference range from physicists who are probing the fundamental make-up of the universe, to biologists who are studying the rare microorganisms that live deep underground as a possible window into extraterrestrial life, to the scientists and engineers working on future experiments planned at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF).

“The world-class experiments at SURF are advancing human understanding across a wide range of scientific fields,” said ­­­­Dr. Jan Puszynski, vice president for research at Mines. “We want to share this opportunity with faculty and students from around the world who want to participate in the scientific work is happening at Mines and SURF.”

Other speakers include Milind Diwan (Brookhaven National Lab), Harry Nelson (University of California Santa Barbara), Wolfgang Rau (Queen's University), Xiaoyu Zhu (Los Alamos National Laboratory), Eric Church (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), Ian Shoemaker (University of South Dakota), Baha Balantekin (University of Wisconsin), Shih-Kai Lin (Colorado State University) and Jace Decory (Black Hills State University).

An optional workshop on the low-background counting for assay and acquisition of radiopure materials will be held on Monday and Tuesday immediately following daily conference activities. The low-background workshop includes representatives from major dark matter and double beta decay experiments, working together to better understand how to reduce the radioactivity in environments and improve technologies for particle detection, simulation techniques, and material screening.

At the Sanford Laboratory, scientists from around the world collaborate on ultra-sensitive underground experiments, including the search for dark matter, and other work in physics, chemistry, geology, biology, astrophysics and engineering. Planned experiments at the laboratory include the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), a next generation dark matter detector and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) focusing on oscillating neutrinos. The ongoing MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR is searching for neutrinoless double-beta decay. Both neutrino experiments could explain the origins of matter. SD Mines scientists are involved in all of these projects, and one, Dr. Frank Strieder, is the principal investigator of the underground  Compact Accelerator System Performing Astrophysical Research (CASPAR) project.

Members of the steering committee planning the conference are Baha Balantekin (UW Madison), Juergen Brune (Colorado School of Mines), Priscilla Cushman (UMN), Giorgio Gratta (Stanford), Mike Headley (SURF), Kevin Lesko (LBNL), Vuc Mandic (University of Minnesota), Harry Nelson (UCSB), Andre Rubbia (ETH Zurich), Kate Scholberg (Duke), Mark Thomson (University of Cambridge), Kasthuri Venkateswaran (NASA), Michael Wiescher (Notre Dame), John Wilkerson (UNC Chapel Hill), and Bob Wilson (Colorado State University).

Learn more about the conference here.


About SD Mines  

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 2,778 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of $62,929. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on Facebook and Twitter.


Contact: Charles Michael Ray, 605-394-6082, charles.ray@sdsmt.edu