USD Faculty Contribute to Neutrino Research That Earned Nobel Prize

Image Ryan MacLellan and Dongming Mei Ryan MacLellan and Dongming Mei

VERMILLION, S.D. — Two University of South Dakota faculty members worked on this year’s Nobel Prize winning topic in physics as graduate students, and one of them worked directly with Nobel winner Arthur B. McDonald.

McDonald and Takaaki Kajita, both neutrino physicists, won the coveted prize this week in physics for their work on neutrino oscillations.

Ryan MacLellan, now an assistant professor of physics at USD, was a graduate student of McDonald's and worked with him at the Subury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) in Canada on neutrino oscillation experiments.

"It is very safe to say that I would not be where I am today if not for Art. From 2001 to 2009, I was very privileged to be one of the few Ph.D. students that Art has supervised," MacLellan said. "I had been asked many times over the years when it would be Art's turn, not that I should have any idea. But I can now say with certainty that he very much represents the ideal of the Nobel Laureate tradition and certainly is deserving of this great honor. He is a great stately man who also could not be more personable."

Dongming Mei, an associate professor of physics at USD, also worked on neutrino oscillation experiments as part of his Ph.D. dissertation at a complementary experiment in Japan.

"Having two faculty members who have a direct connection to the recipients of a Nobel Prize in physics is quite unique for a physics department of our size,” said Tina Keller, director of physics, professor and associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences at USD. "This speaks quite highly of the caliber of research occurring at USD and the opportunity our students have to participate in truly groundbreaking physics research."

MacLellan, Mei and other USD faculty join scientists from around the world who are also researching neutrinos at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota's Black Hills.


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Michael Ewald
USD News