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SURF puts out call to scientific community for experiments, projects

Stephen Kenny
Sanford Underground Research Facility

Nearly 5,000 feet below the surface of the Black Hills, exciting things are happening at SURF – or the Sanford Underground Research Facility. All this happening at what researchers call "the best kept secret in the state."

SURF is announcing what they're searching for - letters of interest for experiments, proposals, and projects that can only take place in a deep-underground lab.

Jaret Heise is science director at the facility.

“We’re looking for experiments that can take advantage of the unique attributes that serve offers to the underground science community, with an eye to some space in our four modeled laboratories that are becoming available in the next few years," Heise said. "So, we’re looking to the underground science community to gather their fabulous ideas.”

Heise said they’re pulling from a deep well of fields.

“Physics researchers, as well as biologists, geologists, and those perusing engineering projects," Heise said. "Those broad categories, we’re looking for interest from researchers and collaborations all over the world.’

As the deepest lab of its kind in America, Heise said there are some projects that simply can’t be conducted anywhere else, from extreme biology to physics that question the very fabric of the universe.

“We have a large amount of rock – about a mile of rock – above us to help screen out cosmic-ray neutrons that would constitute the background for rare-process physics," Heise said. "Searches like neutrinos and dark matter. Biologists are looking for the extent of life underground, and there are a number of different environments. Especially the hot and humid environments at SURF are of particular interest.”

The SURF Science Program Advisory Committee will review proposals over coming months to determine what experiments are best suited for the facility.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture