From SURF: “Program gives students unique experience”

SURF logo
Sanford Underground levels

Sanford Underground Research facility

September 7, 2016
Kimberly Talcott, Black Hills State University

Left to right: Dana Harvey, Joseph Barnes, Patrisse Vasek, Madeline Alisa Valentin, Pauline Dredger, Kingsley Vincent Chow. Credit: Black Hills State University

Talk about a great summer gig. For 10 weeks, Dana Harvey learned all about modern research methods and tools through a National Science Foundation (NSF) program: Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).

“I got to see what it is like to really work in a lab,” said Harvey, a physics major at Davidson College in North Carolina. “It was a great experience. I learned a lot and got to do some cool research.” Harvey was one of six students who participated in this year’s program. The students each worked with a mentor throughout the program.

In April, Black Hills State University (BHSU) received a grant of more than $250,000 from the NSF to support students participating in undergraduate science research at Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab). The funds will be used over three years to provide 21 college-level students a 10-week hands-on research experience.

The program director, Brianna Mount, an assistant research professor at BHSU, said the program gives student researchers opportunities to engage in research related to some of the most important physics experiments of our time—searching for dark matter and investigating properties of the neutrino—as well as research in other scientific fields, specifically chemistry and biology.

“Students will use this experience as a spring-board toward pursuing a career in science. This will help students prepare for graduate school or careers in astrophysics, microbiology and environmental chemistry,” said Mount.

The program also helps students become proficient in both day-to-day lab procedures and data analysis. They develop their abilities to communicate science through speaking and writing as well, said Mount.

Students supported by the grant funds lived on campus and worked with BHSU faculty mentors at the BHSU Underground Campus (BHUC) at Sanford Lab in Lead. The BHUC is a unique, world-class research space for scientists from institutions around the globe, enabling discovery in many disciplines. The BHUC also works with researchers from the Berkeley Low-Background Facility, which gives additional opportunities to the REU students.

“BHSU is taking full advantage of the new infrastructure at the BHSU Underground Campus at Sanford Lab,” said Rod Custer, former BHSU provost. “Over the past eight years, BHSU students and researchers have become increasingly involved in underground projects, and we continue to share that knowledge with students across the country through this work with the National Science Foundation. This is a very prestigious grant and BHSU is excited about the unique research opportunities for students from across the nation.”

In addition to working on their summer research projects, students worked with BHSU faculty and staff on career mentoring, including professional development sessions on selecting graduate schools and applying for jobs in scientific industries.

Students participating in the BHSU undergraduate research experience include:

Kingsley Vincent Chow, Diabolo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, Calif.

Madeline Alisa Valentin, Augustana University, Sioux Falls

Joseph Barnes, Benedictine College, Atchison, Kan.

Patrisse Vasek, Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, S.D.

Dana Harvey, Davidson College, Davidson, N.C.

Pauline Dredger, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.

See the full article here .

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

About us.
The Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, advances our understanding of the universe by providing laboratory space deep underground, where sensitive physics experiments can be shielded from cosmic radiation. Researchers at the Sanford Lab explore some of the most challenging questions facing 21st century physics, such as the origin of matter, the nature of dark matter and the properties of neutrinos. The facility also hosts experiments in other disciplines—including geology, biology and engineering.

The Sanford Lab is located at the former Homestake gold mine, which was a physics landmark long before being converted into a dedicated science facility. Nuclear chemist Ray Davis earned a share of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2002 for a solar neutrino experiment he installed 4,850 feet underground in the mine.

Homestake closed in 2003, but the company donated the property to South Dakota in 2006 for use as an underground laboratory. That same year, philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated $70 million to the project. The South Dakota Legislature also created the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to operate the lab. The state Legislature has committed more than $40 million in state funds to the project, and South Dakota also obtained a $10 million Community Development Block Grant to help rehabilitate the facility.

In 2007, after the National Science Foundation named Homestake as the preferred site for a proposed national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) began reopening the former gold mine.

In December 2010, the National Science Board decided not to fund further design of DUSEL. However, in 2011 the Department of Energy, through the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, agreed to support ongoing science operations at Sanford Lab, while investigating how to use the underground research facility for other longer-term experiments. The SDSTA, which owns Sanford Lab, continues to operate the facility under that agreement with Berkeley Lab.

The first two major physics experiments at the Sanford Lab are 4,850 feet underground in an area called the Davis Campus, named for the late Ray Davis. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment is housed in the same cavern excavated for Ray Davis’s experiment in the 1960s.
LUX/Dark matter experiment at SURFLUX/Dark matter experiment at SURF

In October 2013, after an initial run of 80 days, LUX was determined to be the most sensitive detector yet to search for dark matter—a mysterious, yet-to-be-detected substance thought to be the most prevalent matter in the universe. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment, also on the 4850 Level, is searching for a rare phenomenon called “neutrinoless double-beta decay” that could reveal whether subatomic particles called neutrinos can be their own antiparticle. Detection of neutrinoless double-beta decay could help determine why matter prevailed over antimatter. The Majorana Demonstrator experiment is adjacent to the original Davis cavern.

Another major experiment, the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment (LBNE)—a collaboration with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) and Sanford Lab, is in the preliminary design stages. The project got a major boost last year when Congress approved and the president signed an Omnibus Appropriations bill that will fund LBNE operations through FY 2014. Called the “next frontier of particle physics,” LBNE will follow neutrinos as they travel 800 miles through the earth, from FermiLab in Batavia, Ill., to Sanford Lab.

Fermilab LBNE