Sanford Lab presentation at Northern focuses on education, economic impacts in South Dakota

Majorana Demonstrator researchers built their experiment inside a glove box to ensure it all materials remained pure. (Sanford Underground Research Facility photo)

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 Tuesday, March 28, at Northern State University. The event will be held in the NSU Student Center Centennial Rooms, 1200 S. Jay St., Aberdeen, S.D. A reception will follow the event, which is free and open to the public.  

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

NSU President Dr. Timothy Downs said the university is thrilled to host the discussion. “Northern is dedicated to advancing research and educational opportunities in the sciences, as evidenced by our new NSU Regional Science Education Center,” Downs said. “This event is another way that we can bring science education to our community and region.”

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s, Dr. Ray Davis Jr. 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.

Mike Headley has more than 24 years of engineering and management experience. Before coming to Sanford Lab in 2008, Headley served in various roles at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS) 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.

Jaret 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.

Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) with funding from the Department of Energy. Our mission is to advance compelling underground, multidisciplinary research in a safe work environment and to inspire and educate through science, technology, and engineering. Visit us at www.SanfordLab.org.

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.