South Dakota Mines to Host International ‘Conference on Science at the Sanford Underground Research Facility’

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The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City, S.D., will host the first “Conference on Science at the Sanford Underground Research Facility” May 18-20 to address scientific research related to the laboratory in nearby Lead, S.D. Nigel Lockyer, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., will be keynote speaker at the May 19 banquet.

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology will host the first “Conference on Science at the Sanford Underground Research Facility” to address scientific research related to the laboratory in nearby Lead, S.D.

South Dakota Mines scientists are involved in five high-level research projects being conducted or planned a mile underground at the Sanford laboratory, which could lead to a better understanding of the origins and make-up of the universe. Among collaborations are the next-generation search for dark matter, cutting-edge research in neutrino and particle physics, radon-mitigation efforts, astrophysics-based research on solar neutrino sources, and copper electroforming.

Physicists, chemists and other scientists from national and international laboratories and research universities will attend the May 18-20 conference held on the South Dakota Mines campus in Rapid City, located about one hour from the Sanford lab.

Nigel Lockyer, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., will be keynote speaker at the May 19 banquet. Lockyer has led America’s premier laboratory for particle physics research since September 2013, where he is driving the development of an international flagship program in neutrino science with particle accelerators. Previously, he was director at TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. He will speak about the “Challenges of Being the First to Host an International Science Facility on U.S. Soil.”

“The experiments coming to the Sanford Underground Research Facility over the next five years are path breaking,” said Heather Wilson, South Dakota Mines president. “We want to open the opportunity for faculty and students from South Dakota and the upper Midwest to participate in the scientific work that will be undertaken here.”

Among subjects to be discussed at the conference: Neutrino Physics, Nuclear Astrophysics, Dark Matter, Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay, Materials Science for Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astrobiology and Life in Extreme Environments, Proton Decay and Geology. A trip to the Sanford laboratory is also planned.

Other speakers include Joseph Lykken (Fermilab’s deputy director and chief research officer), Boris Kayser (Fermilab), K. Venkateswaran (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Jaret Heise (Sanford lab), Athans Hatzikoutelis (University of Tennessee), Robert Wilson (Colorado State University), Alba Formicola (Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso-LNGS, Italy), Dan Robertson (Notre Dame), Andrew Hime (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), Steve Dye (University of Hawaii), Duane Moser (Desert Research Institute, Nevada), Paolo Gondolo (University of Utah), Robert Webb (Texas A&M University), Alexey Lyashenko (University of California - Los Angeles), Jason Detwiler (University of Washington), Michelle Dolinski (Drexel University) and Alex Gektin (Institute for Scintillation Materials, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Ukraine).

An optional workshop on the low-background technique of the Assay and Acquisition of Radiopure Materials (AARM) collaboration will be held on Wednesday and Thursday immediately following daily conference activities. The AARM collaboration includes representatives from major dark matter and double beta decay experiments, as well as from the geology and microbiology communities, working together to better understand low-radioactivity environments and improve technologies for particle detection, simulation techniques and material screening.

At the Sanford laboratory, scientists from around the world collaborate on ultra-sensitive underground experiments, including the search for dark matter with the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) project, and other work in physics, chemistry, geology, biology, astrophysics and engineering. Planned experiments at the laboratory include the next generation of LUX-LZ and the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) focusing on oscillating neutrinos. The ongoing MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR is searching for neutrinoless double-beta decay, which could explain the origins of matter. SD Mines scientists are involved in all of these projects and are also principal investigators in the Compact Accelerator System Performing Astrophysical Research (CASPAR) project to be conducted there.

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of High Energy Physics recently awarded a $1.1 million grant to SD Mines’ newly formed physics research group for underground experiments. Four new faculty researchers have been added within the past 18 months to support the university’s new Ph.D. program in physics.

Members of the steering committee planning the conference are Baha Balantekin (UW Madison), Priscilla Cushman (UMN), Giorgio Gratta (Stanford), Mike Headley (SURF), Takashi Kobayashi (KEK), Kevin Lesko (LBNL), Manfred Lindner (MPI Heidelberg), Vuk Mandic (UMN), Art McDonald (Queen’s), Harry Nelson (UCSB), Kate Scholberg (Duke), Herb Wang (UW Madison), Yifang Wang (IHEP), John Wilkerson (UNC Chapel Hill), Bob Wilson (Colorado State University) and Michael Wiescher (Notre Dame).

Registration for the conference is ongoing through April 20, and may be made online. For details about the conference:


About SD Mines
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelors, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,798 students from 45 states and 39 foreign countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 98 percent, with an average early career salary for graduates of $65,600, according to the 2014-2015 PayScale report. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

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