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.