Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, August 12, 2014/Categories: 2014

            Black Hills State University and Sanford Underground Research Facility just received word that a $125,000 Innovation Grant from the South Dakota Board of Regents will fund infrastructure to advance the BHSU Underground Campus at Sanford Lab. BHSU President Tom Jackson, Jr., (far right) toured the campus at Sanford Lab last month. Also pictured are (left to right): Dr. Rod Custer, BHSU provost Dr. Brianna Mount, BHSU researcher and assistant professor Dr. Ben Sayler, BHSU Director of Education and Outreach at Sanford Lab  and Dr. Rachel Headley, STEM Liaison at BHSU.

           Sanford Lab Director Mike Headley and BHSU President Tom Jackson, Jr.

Black Hills State University and Sanford Underground Research Facility just received word that a $125,000 Innovation Grant from the South Dakota Board of Regents will fund infrastructure to advance the BHSU Underground Campus at Sanford Lab.

The underground cleanroom facility and adjoining workspace, known as the BHSU Underground Campus, is located at the 4,850 foot level in the Sanford Lab and will be managed by BHSU staff working closely with Sanford Lab officials.  The proximity of BHSU to the Sanford Lab (just 18 miles away) has already created a number of unique opportunities for collaborative research programs in areas of physics, chemistry, biology, geophysics, as well as other fields.  

"We&rsquove been working with the BHSU team for over two years in planning the Underground Campus and securing funding. With this grant, we&rsquore so pleased to be moving forward with construction soon so we&rsquoll have the new facility operational in 2015. The BHSU Underground Campus will be a great addition to the research capacity in South Dakota for our students and faculty to perform world-class research deep underground," Mike Headley, director of Sanford Lab said.  

"Both the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority and the South Dakota Board of Regents have shown great vision by establishing and advancing the BHSU Underground Campus," BHSU President Dr. Tom Jackson said.  "We are neighbors with Sanford Lab and are looking forward to continuing our work with them at the BHSU Underground Campus."  

The South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) recognized the need for a dedicated underground facility and contributed an estimated $500,000 in kind to make space available for a rehabilitated, ground-stabilized room with ready access to essential utilities including power, water, air, and redundant safe egress. The BHSU Underground Campus will house the Low-Background Counting Facility, which will benefit many other experiments at Sanford Lab by documenting levels of radioactivity of materials used in detectors and other objects.

"The cleanroom and research space at the 4,850 level of the deepest underground laboratory in the United States creates unique student research opportunities and makes it possible for not just BHSU students but many other students throughout the state to greatly enhance teaching and research collaborations," said Jackson, who visited the Sanford Lab during his first week on the job.

He noted that the research facility has already had a profound impact on the University and is contributing to the rapid and effective growth of BHSU&rsquos research capabilities and accomplishments. The BHSU Underground Campus will create opportunities to develop research programs, strengthen the partnership with Sanford Lab, enhance collaboration and extramural funding opportunities, increase graduate and undergraduate student involvement in underground science and create new education and outreach activities.  

Initial uses for the cleanroom and research space include:

o   Ultra-sensitive physics detectors for assay of materials

o   A staging area for biologists studying microbes in situ

o   Student-based short-term projects from a variety of disciplines.

The Low-Background Counting portion of the BHSU Underground Campus will accommodate up to eight experiments at any one time and will be available to other universities and partners creating new opportunities for collaborative research.

"This interdisciplinary BHSU Underground Campus will make South Dakota institutions more competitive for external funding, allow for increased student participation, and increase Sanford Lab&rsquos availability as a research space for entities outside of South Dakota," Dr. Rod Custer, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said. "Once implemented, the international underground science community will be able to request space in the facility."  

Dr. Shane Sarver noted that the BHSU Underground Campus is a great advantage as the University continues to increase the number of students enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs. The BHSU Underground Campus will be directly connected to on-campus Jonas Science Education Center via video streaming. This will provide the opportunity for University students as well as outreach to elementary, middle school and high school students to learn first-hand about research activities at Sanford lab.

"Through a number of outreach activities, many more elementary, middle school and high school students will have exposure to the exciting underground research projects and will be more likely to choose a STEM-related field for their future," Sarver said. He noted that more STEM graduates are need to meet workforce demand in the state and region.

"BHSU students will have unique research experiences that will give them the edge when applying to graduate school and as candidates for jobs," Sarver said.

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