BHSU science students present research at state capitol

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, February 24, 2015/Categories: 2015








           BHSU students Madison Jilek (left) and Kristin Rath work in BHSU&rsquos laser spectroscopy lab aligning a cavity to enable the laser to run straight. Jilek and Rath will present their research under the direction of Dr. Brianna Mount, assistant professor of physics research at BHSU, during Student Poster Day at the State Capitol March 5.



Two students from Black Hills State University will present their contribution to the worldwide search for an understanding of dark matter during the Student Poster Day at the South Dakota Capitol Thursday, March 5.

Kristin Rath, a secondary science education and physical science major from Canton, and Madison Jilek, a physical science and chemistry major from Spearfish, will speak with state legislators about their dark matter research with Dr. Brianna Mount, assistant professor of physics research at BHSU.

"Our work is part of a larger experiment in Italy looking for dark matter, matter that doesn&rsquot interact with light so it isn&rsquot visible but it still makes up most of the universe. For the larger experiment, they need ultrapure liquid argon our part is to look for impurities," said Rath.

BHSU is developing a Cavity Ring-Down Spectroscopy (CRDS) system to detect those impurities.  

"Part of our job in the research was to align the lasers through different points to hit the detector on the other side of the cavity," said Jilek. "There are many skills I gained while working in a lab that I wouldn&rsquot otherwise experience."

BHSU&rsquos work in this area contributes to a larger experiment at Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy.  Jilek visited Gran Sasso last summer through the Davis Bahcall Scholar internship.  

Rath will visit the Italian lab with her research advisor, Mount, for two weeks this April "sitting shifts," working in the lab from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., changing parts of machinery and monitoring equipment.

"Kristin and Madison are two of the best, brightest and most energetic students in our new physical science program.

It is an absolute pleasure working with them both," said Mount. She noted that the students are excited to have the opportunity to share their research experiences with Legislators.

Next fall, Rath will begin student teaching with the hope of becoming a high school science teacher. She says her research experience that started at BHSU will help her teach chemistry and physics.

"I can tell the students about this real-life application to what they&rsquore learning," said Rath. "That experience can happen right here in South Dakota."

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