Mine to foster unique experiments

Meghann Rise

Meghann Rise

The Homestake Mine in Lead, S.D., is being considered as the site for new, groundbreaking experiments in physics, microbiology and chemistry.

The mine will take on the name Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Along with scientists and experts in all fields, a handful of SDSU representatives will be contributing to the experiments at the mine. Among these participants is Robert McTaggart of the SDSU Physics Department.

McTaggart is working on proposals aiding in the progress of experiments. Among the many things he will be contributing, he will support the proposed 2010 Center for Detecting Rare Physics Processes with Ultra-Low Background Experiments. If approved, this collaboration of South Dakota universities, including Dakota State University, SDSU and the School of Mines and Technology, and national laboratories will analyze and prepare materials used in experiments. Such experiments include dark matter and neutrino-less double beta decay.

Faculty will not be the only participants from SDSU. The mine is a new opportunity for graduate and undergraduate students.

“Students will have the opportunity to work on a potential Nobel Prize-winning experiment,” McTaggart said.

In addition to opening opportunities for college students, a new program is employing education and outreach to K-12 students. Their goal is to interest children in math and science at an early age.

The Homestake Mine is being considered as the site of the DUSEL because of its ability to block cosmic rays and the amount of space that has already been excavated underground. Many of the rare-event experiments that are being planned need to eliminate virtually all interference from cosmic rays, which is not possible to do on the surface.

Homestake will be the deepest mine with the largest amount of space for underground science in the United States. Because the mine is deep, there is less of a chance for cosmic noise to skew the results of the experiments. The depth is equivalent to nearly seven Empire State Buildings.

The experiments that are being conducted at the mine could potentially lead to the development of a new area of astronomy. Results will hopefully assist scientists in answering questions about the universe, as well as analyze many of the basic questions of physics.

Because of the magnitude of the experiments, many participants will be recruited, which opens doors for faculty and students alike.

“Homestake represents a tremendous opportunity for the state of South Dakota, which will require the active participation of students today and students in the future,” McTaggart said.