The Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) advances world-class science and inspires learning across generations.
We support active research in particle and nuclear physics and other science disciplines. While still a gold mine, the facility hosted Ray Davis's solar neutrino experiment, which shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics. His work is a model for other experiments looking to understand the nature of the universe.
The facility's depth, rock stability and history make it ideal for sensitive experiments that need to escape cosmic rays. The impacts on science can be seen worldwide.
Building laboratory spaces deep underground at Sanford Lab created new opportunities for higher education in South Dakota. In 2012, the Board of Regents authorized a joint Ph.D. physics program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City and the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Since then, dozens of students have participated in the program and worked on experiments at Sanford Lab. In 2017, each university saw their first students complete the program.
To date, there are 27 ongoing research projects housed at Sanford Lab, 24 of which include students and faculty from universities across South Dakota.
The Black Hills State University Underground Campus (BHUC) provides a space for students from across the state to perform interdisciplinary research underground. While physics students contribute to large-scale physics experiments by working in the low background counting facility, students from other disciplines can work on research in two areas adjoining the counting cleanroom.
“Biology students can study microbes in situ, and geology students can study the unique rock formations of the Black Hills,” said Brianna Mount, director of the BHUC.
Additionally, a National Science Foundation (NSF) program, Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), gives students from around the country, opportunities to pursue research through the underground campus.