Sanford Lab Presentation at USD Focuses on Education Economic Impacts in South Dakota

VERMILLION, S.D. – Leaders from the Sanford Underground Research Facility will lead a discussion titled "Big Science at Sanford Lab," an exploration of the lab's impact on education and the economy in South Dakota, at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 27, at the University of South Dakota’s Farber Hall auditorium in Old Main on the University of South Dakota campus.

The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the talk.

“The groundbreaking work at the Sanford Underground Research Facility is a vital asset to the University of South Dakota community,” said USD President James W. Abbott. “We appreciate its partnership in helping our students pursue their own research and make important scientific discoveries. We look forward to welcoming its leadership to campus.”

Sanford Lab’s Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, and Jaret Heise, science director, will give the presentation.

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s, Ray Davis Jr., Ph.D., operated his solar neutrino experiment on the 4850 Level of Homestake Mine, earning a Nobel Prize in physics. Today, the Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab) houses big physics experiments, as well as other experiments in biology, geology and engineering, nearly a mile underground in the former gold mine.

“We’re on the verge of constructing one of the largest international mega-science projects to ever be developed on U.S. soil to study the mysteries of neutrinos,” Headley said, referencing the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility and associated Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (LBNF/DUNE).

Work on facilities that will house the next-generation dark matter detector also are underway. The LUX-ZEPLIN experiment will be the largest and most sensitive dark matter detector in the world.

“These experiments and several others have been used to enhance STEM education for K-12 schools throughout South Dakota,” Headley said.

Since last year, Sanford Lab’s Education and Outreach Department has created six assembly programs and six curriculum modules that have reached more than 13,000 students throughout the state. The department holds teacher workshops and hosts dozens of field trips as well.

The experiments also contribute to the state’s economy. “Big Science at Sanford Lab” will look at the economic impacts current experiments have had on the state, and feature a report that was done on the economic impact of the LBNF/DUNE project, including projected spending and jobs creation.

"This project has a tremendous potential to boost the economy of South Dakota," Headley said.

Headley has more than 24 years of engineering and management experience. Before coming to Sanford Lab in 2008, he served in various roles at the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls. Headley earned his bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University and an MBA from Loyola Marymount University. He served in the U.S. Air Force for six years.

Heise also joined the Sanford Lab team in 2008 after working for several years with the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), an underground research facility in Canada. The SNO experiment, which helped solve Davis’ solar neutrino problem, won a share of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics. Heise, who also held a postdoctoral position at Los Alamos National Lab, earned his Ph.D. in particle astrophysics from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Deep Talks on the Road is a lecture series created by Sanford Lab and held in several locations throughout the state.

Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority with funding from the Department of Energy. Its mission is to advance compelling underground, multidisciplinary research in a safe work environment and to inspire and educate through science, technology and engineering.

ABOUT USD

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 206 undergraduate and 71 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.