US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Supporting Science in South Dakota

RoundsPressHeader Supporting Science in South Dakota
By Senator Mike Rounds
July 2, 2015

MikeRounds official SenateWhile working as governor of South Dakota, securing the underground laboratory at the Homestake mine in Lead was one of our proudest accomplishments. Without the strong support of people across the entire state none of this would have happened. At that time, it was called the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, or DUSEL, and managed by the National Science Foundation. During a competitive process and with a generous gift from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, the facility was awarded to South Dakota. The Department of Energy is now the primary sponsor of the re-named Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Though the name has changed over time, the quality of the work at the lab remains first-rate. Researchers and scientists continue to explore modern physics by developing groundbreaking experiments that can only be done in this unique laboratory space deep underground that protects the experiments from cosmic radiation. In fact, physicist Ray Davis, Jr., earned a Nobel Prize for Physics in 2002 for his solar neutrino experiment at the mine.

I was honored to attend the recent grand opening of the Sanford Visitor and Learning Center on June 30, which is the result of years of hard work and planning. Many different people and groups have come together to make the Sanford Lab a world-class research facility, and I’m pleased that it will now be open to visitors from around the globe who are interested in the important work researchers are doing at the lab.

While working as governor, I worked with the South Dakota State Legislature to appropriate more than $39 million for underground science at the Sanford Lab. The new visitor center offers scientists of all ages from every state and around the world a first-hand look at the lab’s experiments. It also offers the town of Lead an opportunity to showcase its historic past as a mining town to tour groups and visitors from around the world.

We’ve also been preparing future leaders to work in science. Students are our state’s greatest asset, and just since 2003, 6,000 new scholarships have been awarded to make sure young people have the opportunity to receive a top-notch education and make their careers in South Dakota. Encouraging more students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has long been one of our priorities. The Sanford Science Education Center is a collaboration between Black Hills State University and the Sanford Lab to prepare students for future STEM-based careers. They offer internships, professional development courses, summer programs and more to inspire young people to pursue science-based jobs.

I look forward to seeing the Sanford Lab continue to expand and thrive. Future plans for the lab include a partnership with Fermilab in Illinois on the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which could lead to new discoveries about neutrinos, proton decay and the elements necessary for life.  Scientists throughout the ages have questioned the origins of the universe, and with today’s technology, we may be able to discover more about what makes up the universe. This is South Dakota’s opportunity to be involved in exciting new discoveries which, not too long ago, seemed only to be part of science fiction. You will hear more about matter, dark matter, energy, dark energy, and of course, more about neutrinos! It is all happening in the Black Hills of South Dakota.


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