Sanford Lab in the classroom

Students love a good mystery. So, Education and Outreach came up with a novel way to incorporate the science at Sanford Lab in K-12 classrooms.

“Students are fascinated by the unexplained and the unexpected,” said Dr. June Apaza, Director of Education and Outreach. “Because there is so much of that here, we’re trying to tap into that fascination.”

This summer, E&O developed six science curriculum units—two each for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Each unit includes an inquiry based activity kit designed...

Mini earthquakes measure rock properties

Recently, Dr. Gary Pavlis of Indiana University, was creating his own mini earthquakes in Lead. Pavlis leads the Active Seismic Source Experiments collaboration. Pavlis’s team actively creates the earthquake by dropping a weight on the suface. 

The collaboration works in conjunction with the Deep Underground Gravity Laboratory (DUGL), which has an array of seismometers that are listening for seismic activity. Rather than waiting for a seismic event, the...

Investment critical to LZ success

Investment critical to LZ success

Xenon is a core component of the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment. In its search for dark matter, LUX uses 1/3 of-a-ton of xenon. LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), the next generation dark matter search, needs 10 tons, which carries a high price tag. But the South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF) took steps to ease that burden when it committed $2 million toward the purchase of xenon.  


From the bat cave to the 4850L

The Historic Cherokee Caverns near Knoxville, Tenn., tell a fascinating story about the geological history of the Tennessee Valley. The Caverns are a tourist attraction that often hosts special events—a music festival, Christmas in the Cave, and a “not-too-scary” Halloween party. But the Caverns are more than a tourist stop, they also play an important role in the Majorana Demonstrator Project.

Majorana uses enriched germanium detectors in its search for a rare form...

CASPAR moves in

The mood was almost festive in the CASPAR cavern. After a nearly one-year delay, collaborators began putting together the backbone of the accelerator in which researchers will attempt to mimic nuclear fusion in stars. By January 2016, the collaboration hopes to begin calibrations and other tests on the accelerator.

Equipment for the Compact Accelerator System for Performing Astrophysical Research experiment arrived at Sanford Lab...

A ‘fitting tribute’ to visionary scientist

August 4, 2015
From Left: Mike Headley, Dale Lamphere, David Kieda, Roger Davis, Linda Davis, John Wilkerson and Joshua Willhite.

Bold visionary. Humble. Pioneer. Respectful. Passionate. Kind. Encouraging. Fun. Patient. Father. Husband. Scientist. Gentleman. Role model.

In a ceremony dedicating the Raymond Davis Jr. Memorial sculpture, speakers used all of these words to describe the man who built his solar neutrino experiment on the 4850 Level of Homestake Mine in the 1960s. Davis created “the solar neutrino problem” when his experiment detected only about a third of the neutrinos predicted. But he never gave up. In 2002, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research.  

“Ray Davis had bold, visionary ideas,” said Dr. John Wilkerson, Principal Investigator with the Majorana Demonstrator Project and a former colleague of Davis. “He was a soft-spoken, polite gentleman who treated everyone around him with respect. This monument is a tribute to his vision and accomplishments.”

The sculpture, designed by South Dakota Artist Laureate Dale Lamphere, is a tank support from Davis’ experiment. The sculpture features a stainless steel ring that “floats” off the interior of the tank support. The original tank was moved in segments to the 4850 Level then assembled. The segmented monument reflects that process. 

“It was a great honor to create this tribute to Ray Davis and his profoundly important work,” Lamphere said. 

Dr. David Kieda was a graduate student when he arrived at Homestake in 1983 to work with Davis. Now the Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Utah, Kieda recalls the first time he saw the tank sitting in the cavern. “It was enormous!” he said. “I couldn’t understand how it got down that tiny shaft.” He learned soon enough.

“Seeing the monument today is like seeing an old friend. The tank allowed us to see into the sun, now it is in the sun. It is beautiful and simple and reflects the qualities of a man who treated everyone with the same kind of respect, regardless of who they were.” Kieda said.

The final speaker of the day was Roger Davis, son of Ray Davis. Roger Davis shared many stories about his father, “a dedicated scientist who always found time to play with his children.” 

Roger Davis and his four siblings, who grew up on Long Island, spent summers sailing, traveling and playing baseball. “My father was always the pitcher and he always pitched underhanded so everyone had the chance to hit a home run over the hedges out front.” And he treated every child in the neighborhood as if they were all his, including them in family outings and other activities, Roger said. 

Roger Davis summarized his father’s philosophy on life this way: “Exercise your body and your mind. Get a good education. Stay healthy. Listen to great music. Help others in need. Work hard and do your best. Be around children as often as you can. Never forget to have fun after your work is done. And never give up.”

The monument, he said, “is a fitting tribute to him.”

Neutrino Day celebrates 50 years of science

June 5, 2015

As the temperature soared on the eight annual Neutrino Day July 11, so, too, did the number of visitors attending Neutrino Day activities in Lead. This year Sanford Lab celebrated 50 years of science with more than 1,800 people attending activities and presentations, shattering the record of 1,100 set two years ago.

Many started the day at the lab with a hoistroom tour, one of the most popular activities of the day. Visitors also saw “wild science” experiments with South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s Steve Rokusek, watched demonstrations of a solar powered water pump, learned about water treatment, looked at sunspots using a solar telescope, and got a taste of the Majorana experiment through the “glove box” demonstration.

Jim Dunn, who worked in public and government affairs at Homestake Mine for many years and helped document the building of Ray Davis’ solar neutrino experiment, “had a wonderful day,” his daughter Sue Dunn said. “He loved visiting with the scientists, hearing updates and reliving fond memories of Homestake.”

Downtown, children and adults did hands-on activities, participated in video- conferences with scientists underground and at Fermilab, and watched presentations about world-leading research into neutrinos and dark matter.

Activities included markerbots, an engineering design activity; “Move the LUX”; Rutherford scattering, which focuses on understanding the structure of very tiny particles like atoms; and electroforming demonstrations. At the Opera House Smart Center, the Davis-Bahcall Scholars demonstrated lasers and a cloud chamber. Activities were hosted by Black Hills State University, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and Tennessee Tech.

“Everything went really well,” said Peggy Norris, Deputy Director of Education and Outreach. “People enjoyed the events very much. A teacher from Rapid City brought students, who participated in several events. She said it was ‘terrifically awesome.’”

New this year was the new Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center, which opened June 29. Visitors viewed exhibits, watched geology demonstrations and participated in videoconferences with scientists under- ground and at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill.

Mike Headley, Executive Director of the South Dakota Science and Technology

Authority, said, “I’m so proud of the SDSTA staff, our partners, and all the vol- unteers who made this our best Neutrino Day yet.” 

The ‘Homestake Mine’

New to this year’s Neutrino Day was the premiere of the “Homestake Mine,” a musical piece written and conducted by Jesse Dunaway, a music major at Black Hills State University. Dunaway created the piece after a trip to Sanford Lab and the Davis Campus.

“I was so taken by how much culture surrounded the space,” he said. “For the people who lived here and worked in the mine, it was a way of life. Today, it’s about top scientific research. That’s what I tried to highlight.”

Jim Dunn, a long-time employee at Homestake Mine, said, “This young student captured the heart and spirit of the mine’s past and what the future holds.”

The piece received a standing ovation from a nearly full house. “I was thrilled that people got so much out of it,” Dunaway said.

Speakers pack Opera House

It wouldn’t be Neutrino Day without science talks—this year three speakers captivated audiences, who had a host of questions following each presentation.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Ray Jayawardhana (at left), gave a tribute to Davis’ neutrino research during his presenta- tion, “Neutrino Hunters: Chasing a Ghostly Particle to Unlock Cosmic Secrets.” Jayawardhana focused on research into neutrinos, but also on the men and women who put their reputations on the line in the search for this “chameleon-like” particle.

The Dean of Science at York University in Toronto, was thrilled with the response. “This was an exceptionally en- gaged and curious audience.”

In “Touch the Dark,” Dr. Harry Nelson discussed the search for dark matter. Nelson is a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and a researcher with LUX.

Dr. Steve Elliott focused on the role neutrinos could play in understanding the origins of the universe in “Neutrinos, Anti-Neutrinos and the Question, ‘Why are we Here.’” Elliott is a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the spokesperson for Majorana.

After a tour of the 4850L Jayawardhana said, “It was a privilege to be where Ray Davis began his pioneering and Nobel-winning work. I was captivated not only bythe incredible history, but  by the frontier science happening now and the exciting plans for the coming decade.”

Guess who came to the Lab

Sanford Lab staff, scientists and special guests were in for a real treat when Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, walked into the Davis Campus. Aldrin asked many questions about the experiments and the future of Sanford Lab.

During a talk later that day at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Aldrin said his favorite thing about South Dakota was “a big hole in the ground,” referring to Sanford Lab.

“We appreciate Buzz Aldrin taking the time to visit the Sanford Lab and sharing his enthusiasm for science and technology,” said Mike Headley, Executive Director of the SDSTA. 

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