Joint physics Ph.D. may make its debut

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

SDSU’s future may see a joint Ph.D. program in physics that offers research opportunities at the former Homestake Gold Mine, home of Nobel Prize-winning experiments.

Homestake is now the location of the state’s Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, chosen by the National Science Foundation.

The Homestake Mine in Lead, S.D., is the site of groundbreaking experiments in physics, microbiology and chemistry.

“The state has a tremendous investment in the mine and a large return on it,” said Terry Baloun, president for the South Dakota Board of Regents.

The new Ph.D. would be a joint degree between SDSU, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and the University of South Dakota. Faculty from other state universities including Black Hills State and Dakota State would also assist in teaching courses and serving on the dissertation committees.

“Each institution has different strengths that it can bring to the Ph.D. program,” said Jack Warner, executive director and CEO for the Board of Regents. “So I think it’s excellent that the institutions have come together to create the proposal for the Ph.D.”

Much of the research work that the Ph.D. students would do for dissertations would be related to the research done in Homestake, said Joel Rauber, head of the Physics Department at SDSU.

“We are really going to try and link the Ph.D. to the Homestake Mine because it is something that has gained national attention in physics,” said Warner. “The mine gives the students and physicists the opportunity to collaborate with other scientists from across the nation.”

The Board of Regents approved the physics Ph.D. proposal at their December meeting, and it will need to go to Legislature for approval and some funding, said Baloun.

“We are currently one of only two states that do not offer a Ph.D. in physics from a public university,” said Warner. “I think most Legislatures would agree that this is a good program.

“The problem will be that this is one of the most challenging budget years,” Warner said.

The amount of funding that can be allocated is still unknown, so the Ph.D. is still non-final.

“The Ph.D. in physics is important in advancing the university’s research goals,” said Rauber.

SDSU, USD, and SDSM&T have shared courses in their physics programs in the past years with the joint master’s degree that is offered through the universities.

“We have the joint master’s (physics degree) program and will now have the joint Ph.D to open up more opportunities for our students,” Baloun said. “The mine also gives those students the possibilities of job opportunities that will keep them in the state.”

Baloun said he has hopes that the Ph.D. in physics will open up a “new world of opportunities” for students.

“Having the Ph.D. program will also then allow each institution to select graduate students from across the country,” said Warner, “and that is always beneficial to the state.”