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Education and Outreach

Davis-Bahcall Scholars

Through SURF’s Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program, students experience a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity that takes them around the world of modern scientific research.
Davis-Bahcall Scholars look down a drift

The Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program is a once-in-a-lifetime, all-expense-paid opportunity that connects science-curious students with peers and mentors while exploring the modern world of STEM research.

The Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program is for students entering their first or second year of college. Scholars will spend four weeks exploring leading national and international laboratories and universities in the Black Hills, across the Midwest and in Chicago, Illinois.

In 2024, the program will run from Sunday, June 16, 2024 through Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Final itinerary is subject to change.) Application deadline is Friday, January 19, 2024.

"The Davis-Bahcall Program offered an unparalleled glimpse into the scientific research community and industry. Without the opportunity to peer beyond what an undergraduate degree can truly do, it is extremely difficult for students to have enough information to feel confident in pursuing a career."

— 2021 Davis-Bahcall Scholar

a group of students stand on stairs next to the LZ water tank

Tour the modern world of scientific research

What does research look like at a national lab? On a university campus? In research-based industries?

The Davis-Bahcall Scholars program invites students into the laboratory spaces where impactful research is taking place. Scholars will learn about blue sky research initiatives, such as investigating the nature of dark matter and neutrinos, as well as immediately-applicable disciplines including engineering product solutions, animal medicine and agricultural research.

Scholars will take a deep dive into one subject of their choosing for their final presentations.

a group of students walk through a well-lit drift

See into the future

Where could a career in STEM take you?

Davis-Bahcall Scholars program is designed to help rising university freshmen and sophomores who are entering STEM fields develop an understanding of just where their passions for science, technology, engineering and math could take them. The program demystifies these subjects by exposing students to what professionals do every day, whether in science, engineering or another STEM field.

“It was a life-changing experience, full stop. This program provided the unparalleled opportunity to see behind the veil that I would not have had otherwise.”

— 2021 Davis-Bahcall Scholar

three people stand with their arms crossed in cleanroom suits

Make lasting connections

Whatever their background, all Davis-Bahcall Scholars have one thing in common: a passion for STEM. Through social gatherings and peer-to-peer work, students create lasting connections with like-minded peers.

Students also gain mentors through in-depth conversations with the researchers, professors and industry leaders who propel research forward. 

students stand at the base of community caves in spearfish canyon

Learn through travel

In 2023, Davis-Bahcall Scholars will spend four weeks exploring labs and industries in the Black Hills, across the Midwest and in Chicago, Illinois. The group will also visit national monuments, landmarks of cultural significance and more than a few pizzerias. And remember, all expenses are covered by the program!

Last year’s Davis-Bahcall Scholars chronicled their adventures on the Davis-Bahcall Scholars Facebook page, sharing photos of their stops at Wall Drug, the Badlands, Spearfish Canyon and the Fourth of July fireworks celebration in Lead.

“It helped me to make connections with professors and research scientists, as well as meet a group of other students who share my enthusiasm for science.”

— 2021 Davis-Bahcall Scholar

A group of davis-bahcall scholars in an underground drift point to the sky

Discovery and collaboration

The Davis-Bahcall Scholars program takes its name from two scientists whose collaborative efforts resulted in a major discovery: Dr. Raymond Davis Jr. and his collaborator, Dr. John Bahcall. Based on Bahcall's theory, Davis built his solar neutrino experiment at the 4850 Level of the Homestake Gold Mine, collecting data for nearly 30 years beginning in the mid-1960s. His ground-breaking research led to a share of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002. This spirit of discovery drives the program, encouraging students to find the scientist, engineer or researcher within.

Who is a good candidate?

Above all, this program is for enthusiastic, science-curious students who are willing to ask questions and engage with new concepts.

Think you’re ready to apply?

Here’s what you’ll need: a short essay, resume, transcripts, and an instructor to recommend you. Application deadline is January 20, 2023.
Davis-Bahcall sponsors

Davis-Bahcall sponsors

Since 2009, 140 students have participated in SURF’s Davis-Bahcall Scholars Program. What began as a physics-oriented learning experience has evolved to include students from a variety of STEM interests.

First PREMIER Bank and the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority are major sponsors of the program. The program is also supported by the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium and Black Hills State University.