Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) is on a mission to inspire and educate through science, technology and engineering. The SURF Foundation, a non-profit recently created by the South Dakota Science and Technology Association (SDSTA), will advance that mission by building upon strong relationships within the community and opening doors for public contributions.
Currently, Sanford Lab develops unique K-12 outreach programs for future scientists, delivers exciting opportunities for discovery to community audiences and creates collaborative spaces for scientists from around the world. But the SDSTA has an even more “ambitious vision” for the facility, said Mike Headley, executive director of the SDSTA and lab director for SURF.
“To achieve this vision, we must pursue additional development venues to realize this vision. The SURF Foundation will lead these development efforts,” Headley said. “We’re proud to introduce the Foundation and roll up our sleeves and begin this critical work for our future.”
The SURF Foundation was established in 2019 and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-deductible, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Overseen by the SDSTA and led by Staci Miller, the goals of the SURF Foundation can be best understood through its “Four Pillars.”
The Four Pillars of the SURF Foundation
Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) Institute
The Sanford Underground Research Facility houses world-leading, multidisciplinary research and incorporates that research into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for K-12 students and professional development for educators.
To deepen this impact, SURF is committed to creating working spaces for collaboration, enhancing teaching and learning areas, and increasing opportunities for scientists to come together through discovery and exploration of our universe. SURF is currently working to develop, build and implement a fully realized STEM institute located at SURF.
“The Foundation will transform the ongoing education and scientific collaboration efforts at Sanford Lab. It provides both infrastructure for expanding programs and a long-term vision for the future of the facility,” said Dana Dykhouse, chair of SURF Foundation Board and a member of the SDSTA Board of Directors.
Scientists of the Future
Through a robust Education and Outreach program, scholarships and internships across disciplines, SURF strives to inspire and empower youth to pursue careers in STEM. From K-12 curriculum modules and teacher professional development to undergraduate internships and the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program, SURF teams leverage science to inspire and challenge every student.
Since 2015, SURF’s impact on the lives of South Dakota students is apparent. More than 50,000 students—a number that grows every day—directly benefit from the K-12 programming, while well over 600 educators have participated in teacher professional development programs. SURF makes a concerted effort to reach out to under-served populations, especially those in rural areas. In 2020, the Education and Outreach team’s work was recognized as a world-wide model for science education and workforce development.
“We want to advance SURF as a world-leading science laboratory with a vibrant education and outreach program,” Headley said.
Beyond the Classroom, into the Community
SURF also recognizes the value of outreach to the community. There are many fascinating stories behind the science and SURF helps tell those stories by engaging dynamic speakers and creating interactive events that inspire the public to learn about the research taking place nearly a mile underground.
Since 2008, public outreach programs have reached more than 30,000 people. This includes individuals who have attended Neutrino Day, Deep Talks, Nobel Day and our many presentations that are offered to groups across the country and around the globe.
United in One Space
Finally, the SURF Foundation plans to update Education and Outreach facilities and design a facility to house the SURF Institute. This physical space is seen as a unifier of the other three pillars.
Casey Peterson, chair of the SDSTA Board of Directors, said the SURF Foundation sprang from the Board’s desire to create a space for science collaboration, where ideas can be shared; discussed; and offered to the public, scientists, students and teachers.
“We dream that it will be a spectacular building located on the lab site where visiting scientists can study, lecture, and cooperate; students and teachers can be exposed to that leading-edge science; archives of scientific studies, lectures and production of curriculum will be housed; and meetings and symposiums will be held,” Peterson said.