Students and alums visit underground lab in China to advance knowledge and research

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, October 25, 2018/Categories: Students, Students in the News, Alumni, Campus Currents, College of Business and Natural Sciences, Community, Faculty, Sanford, 2018

This summer, four Black Hills State University students and two local middle school teachers, who are also BHSU alums, traveled to China to participate in an international meeting on furthering germanium technology. While in China, the students and teachers toured the Chinese Jinping Underground Lab, which is the deepest in the world.

The BHSU students and middle school teachers had this unique opportunity thanks to a National Science Foundation consortium award to further germanium research. Germanium is used in several applications underground including as a dark matter detector medium and at the BHSU Underground Campus at the Sanford Underground Research Facility to characterize materials for large-scale physics experiments.

Dr. Brianna Mount, assistant professor of physics at BHSU, said the students and teachers who participated will bring the knowledge back into their careers and classrooms in South Dakota.

“Two of the BHSU students who traveled to China are now participating in research at the BHSU Underground Campus. We selected middle school teachers to be part of this project because that age can often be a turning point for whether or not students continue to pursue higher levels of science for future study or professions,” said Mount.

To prepare to attend the international meeting in China, the four BHSU students took part in professional development, research talks, toured Sanford Lab, and learned the basics of particle physics.

Another key component of their preparation was learning computer programming.

“The BHSU students were from a variety of science majors. Computer programming is a tool they’ll be able to use throughout their respective disciplines,” said Mount.

K’Dyn Newbrough, applied health sciences and exercise science major from Eagle Butte, said the biggest takeaway from the program was gaining a better understanding and knowledge of physics and neutrinos.

“My time at BHSU prepared me to take this experience and make the most of it by getting me out of my comfort zone. This experience has and will impact my future career by giving me a wider range of options to study,” said Newbrough. “I am very grateful to have this opportunity to travel the world while learning.”

Mount said the summer travel program is part of the NSF’s Partnerships for International Research Education (PIRE). The goal of PIRE is for researchers and educators to operate effectively in teams with partners from different national environments and cultural backgrounds.

“International partnerships are essential to addressing critical science and engineering problems,” according to the NSF website. “PIRE promotes excellence in science and engineering through international collaboration and facilitates development of a diverse, globally-engaged, U.S. science and engineering workforce.”

At the end of this specific PIRE consortium project, a germanium detector will be created that will be housed at the BHSU Underground Campus. BHSU also has an ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry) lab on campus that analyses materials for germanium growth.

BHSU students will have the opportunity to attend the international meeting and receive professional development support for the next five years as part of the NSF funding.

This year’s participants included:

Alberta Miner, biology major from Eagle Butte
K’Dyn Newbrough, applied health sciences and exercise science major from Eagle Butte
Ayla Rodriguez, physical science major from Rapid City
Megan Wattenhofer, biology major from Rapid City
Andy Johnson, BHSU alum and middle school teacher in Belle Fourche
Rob Dahlenburg, BHSU alum and middle school teacher in Rapid City

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