Research Inquiries

For inquiries related to SD Mines Research, contact:

Research Affairs

S.D. School of Mines & Technology
501 E. St. Joseph Street
Suite 102, O'Harra Building
Rapid City, SD  57701

(605) 394-2493

Research@Mines

Research@Mines

Research at Mines happens every day of the year, involves faculty and students at every academic level, and frequently includes collaboration across the state, the nation and the globe.

Changing The Way Kosovo Mines

This group of Mines seniors took on a senior project evaluating Kosovo's mining industry and identifying ways to improve productivity.

What started as a senior design project could change the way Kosovo develops its country’s power.   

“This is very real-world,” says Andrea Brickey, Ph.D., associate professor in the SD Mines Mining Engineering and Management Department. “This design and plan is going to be shared with the mine management in Kosovo.”

Brickey assigned the senior design project to 10 of her SD Mines mining students after being contacted by a colleague, Hillary Smith, who had recently completed a fellowship in Kosovo with the U.S. State Department. The World Bank had recently backed Kosovo, a country in the Balkans region of Europe, in its plan to build a more efficient power plant. The United States has played a consulting role in helping the country improve its power capacity. With the power plant moving forward thanks to the World Bank backing, the next step was improving the country’s mining operations to feed the plant.

Currently, Kosovo gets 97 percent of its power from one lignite mine called the South Sibovc Coal Mine. These lignite mines are operated by the Kosovo Energy Company (KEK). Unfortunately, the mining technology, equipment a...

Last Edited 6/8/2018 09:10:29 AM [Comments (0)]

The Math of the Wild

Some of these Elk are fitted with radio collars. The data generated through these collars is valuable to mathematicians who study animal movement. This photo is courtesy of the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks.

Around the summer of 2003 in the La Sal Mountains of Utah, mule deer began to turn into zombies.

Or, at least they began to act like zombies. They started losing weight, salivated constantly, and began to walk in listless circles. They grew apathetic and then stopped running from humans.

At first only a few sick animals turned up in annual surveys of harvested deer, but the numbers grew. Testing confirmed the fears of wildlife managers, Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD. The prion disease produces lesions in the brain that change the animals' behavior. “We call them zombie deer,” says Martha Garlick, PhD, SD Mines math professor.

At first CWD shows no symptoms. It progresses over the course of a few years, but once contracted it’s always fatal. CWD is highly contagious and it has ravaged deer and elk populations across the American West.

Understanding the rate of spread is crucial to stopping any disease. This is where Garlick’s work comes in, she is teamed up with wildlife biologists, mathematicians, and statisticians at Utah State University and Colorado State University. The team is part of a National Science Foundation grant to improve computer models that can help predict how animal populations move.

“I love math anyway, but, it’s really cool to actually apply this to something real world. It’s exciting to predict things about a...

Last Edited 6/1/2018 03:32:09 PM [Comments (0)]

Engineering End to Back Pain

Marit Johnson, a PhD candidate at SD Mines, is focusing her research on intervertebral discs in the lower back.

There is a good chance you are sitting down right now. It’s possible you’ve been sitting all day, or maybe you’ve even been sitting every day for the last few decades.

“There is a trend in the 21st century that 80 percent of our jobs require sitting, and it’s even more so when you include leisure time,” says Marit Johnson (CE 96), a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at SD Mines.

You may guess that spending all this time in a chair is not so good for your health. In fact, research is now showing prolonged sitting may contribute to lower back pain. “Eighty percent of us will experience back pain in our lifetime,” says Johnson. "If your job requires long hours in a chair, back pain can be a real issue."

Johnson’s research is focused on the intervertebral discs of the lower back. These discs are in between the vertebrae, or bones, of the spine, and their softer tissue provides cushion and flexibility. They are key components of a healthy and functional spine.

Research shows that intervertebral discs need to exchange fluid to maintain a healthy environment, similar to how our bodies need breathing to exchange carbon dioxide with oxygen for our survival. “Typically, when we wake up in the morning we’re taller,” says Johnson. At night when we sleep the discs pull in fluid and they expand. As the day goes on,...

Last Edited 5/25/2018 11:36:38 AM [Comments (0)]

Ballooning in the Shadow of the Moon

This image, courtesy of the South Dakota Solar Eclipse Balloon Team, shows the moon's shadow crossing the Nebraska Panhandle during the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

At 10:35 a.m. on August 21, 2017, in a field in front of a small Nebraska Panhandle farmhouse, a team consisting of SD Mines students, Black Hills area high school students, teachers and community members, meticulously followed a set of steps they had practiced many times before. Payloads were carefully secured, batteries checked, and scientific instruments turned on and tested. Soon, helium was coursing through a hose from tanks in the back of a pickup truck into an eight-foot-tall balloon laid out on the soft grass.

Above the desolate cornfields and sandhills of northwestern Nebraska the moon was starting its path across the sun–the arc of its shadow racing across the country toward this team. The Great American Eclipse was underway.

The South Dakota Solar Eclipse Balloon Team had been working for two years to prepare for this one sliver in time. Their goal—to launch this balloon at the exact moment to loft the payload to an altitude of about 100,000 feet, under the moon’s shadow, during two minutes of totality. On board were video cameras, a radiation detector, GPS, and other scientific experiments. This project aimed to capture images and data from the eclipse. The radiation detector would help measure the flux of cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere as the moon obscured the sun. The video cameras would capture the circle of the moon’s shadow on the earth. The team designed and built some of ...

Last Edited 5/17/2018 03:53:34 PM [Comments (0)]