Discussion to Explore Lab's Impact on Education, Economy

Sanford Underground Research Lab

A researcher with the Majorana Demonstrator Project at Sanford Lab works inside a glove box to build detector components. The experiment is seeking a rare form of radioactive decay that could help explain the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe.

Event Details


Date: February 16, 2017

Times: 7 p.m.

Location: Mikkelson Family Auditorium, located in the Froiland Science Complex

Ticket Info: Free and open to the public.


Augustana will host leaders from the Sanford Underground Research Facility for a discussion titled "Big Science at Sanford Lab," an exploration of the Lab's impact on education and the economy in South Dakota, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16, in the Mikkelson Family Auditorium (located inside the Froiland Science Complex). A reception will follow.

The event is free and open to the public.  

Sanford Lab’s Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, and Jaret Heise, science director, will lead the discussion.

About the Lab

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s, Dr. Ray Davis Jr. operated his solar neutrino experiment on the 4850 Level of Homestake Mine, earning a Nobel Prize in Physics. Today, the Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab) houses big physics experiments, as well as other experiments in biology, geology and engineering, nearly a mile underground in the former gold mine.

“We’re on the verge of constructing one of the largest international mega-science projects to ever be developed on U.S. soil to study the mysteries of neutrinos,” Headley said, referencing the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) and associated Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE).

Work on facilities that will house the next-generation dark matter detector also are underway. The LUX-ZEPLIN experiment will be the largest and most sensitive dark matter detector in the world.

“These experiments and several others have been used to enhance STEM education for K-12 schools throughout South Dakota,” Headley said.

Since last year, Sanford Lab’s Education and Outreach Department has created six assembly programs and six curriculum modules that have reached more than 13,000 students throughout the state. The department holds teacher workshops and hosts dozens of field trips.

The experiments also contribute to the state’s economy. “Big Science at Sanford Lab” will look at the economic impacts current experiments have had on the state, and feature a report that was done on the economic impact of the LBNF/DUNE project, including projected spending and jobs creation.

"This project has a tremendous potential to boost the economy of South Dakota," Headley said.

Augustana President Rob Oliver said he expects the discussion to be informative and thoughtful.

"From cutting edge research led by our outstanding faculty to our robust undergraduate research program to, most recently, our new master's degree program in genetic counseling, Augustana has long been a key contributor to science and discovery here in South Dakota and throughout the world. Building a better, stronger and healthier South Dakota is something our campus community is working toward every day," Oliver said. "It's why we're proud to host what will surely be an informative and thoughtful discussion by the leaders of the Sanford Underground Research Facility. We hope for a great turnout so that more citizens will have greater understanding of the important work they are doing there."

About the Speakers

Mike Headley has more than 24 years of engineering and management experience. Before coming to Sanford Lab in 2008, Headley served in various roles at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS) in Sioux Falls. Headley earned his bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University and an MBA from Loyola Marymount University. He served in the U.S. Air Force for six years.

Jaret Heise also joined the Sanford Lab team in 2008 after working for several years with the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), an underground research facility in Canada. The SNO experiment, which helped solve Davis’ solar neutrino problem, won a share of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics. Heise, who also held a postdoctoral position at Los Alamos National Lab, earned his Ph.D. in particle astrophysics from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Deep Talks on the Road is a lecture series created by Sanford Lab and held in several locations throughout the state.

Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority with funding from the Department of Energy. Its mission is to advance compelling underground, multidisciplinary research in a safe work environment and to inspire and educate through science, technology, and engineering.