Physics Graduate Students Working in Underground Lab

Image Dana Byram Dana Byram (right), a USD graduate student, is working in the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, S.D.

LEAD, S.D. -- Two University of South Dakota graduate students in physics are working on experiments this summer nearly a mile underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in the Black Hills.

“The general properties of neutrinos and the nature of dark matter are currently two of the most important questions in fundamental physics,” said Dongming Mei, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of physics at USD. The students are working alongside Mei on the Large Underground Xenon experiment (LUX), which aims to detect dark matter in the underground lab.

Dana Byram, of Rapid City, South Dakota, is pursuing his Ph.D. at USD while working full time in the SURF lab. He is taking shifts with the LUX experiment, looking for experimental detection of dark matter particles. The project recently finished gathering 300 days of data.

Michelle While, another USD graduate student from Gillette, Wyoming, is mainly working on LUX-Zeplin (LZ) experiments while pursuing her studies at USD. She is involved in the new LZ project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The LZ project seeks to discover dark matter and has the potential to rule out the most popular theoretical model about the topic.


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.


Michael Ewald
USD News