How to do research at Sanford Underground Research Facility


Heise at the Davis Campus in Lead, S.D.

Dr. Jaret Heise is the science director at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead. He spoke at the weekly Science Seminar Talk on Oct. 25 in Club Buzz on the Black Hills State University Campus.

His talk included information on the research and shaft renovations currently being done at the facility. He also talked about the layout of the grounds and how much room they have for current and future projects. The final part of his lecture dealt with students doing their own research at the facility and what the requirements are to get approved for research underground.

The reason they do their research underground is to avoid cosmic rays that constantly bombard the Earth.

Most of the scientific research is done at the 4,850 ft level of the lab. That is almost a mile under the Earth’s surface.

There are currently three main research projects going on at the lab including: LUX or Large Underground Xenon, which is searching for dark matter; MJD or Majorana Demonstrator, which is looking for Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay; and CUBED or the Center for Ultralow background experiments in the Dakotas.

“I’m not here to tell you how to do your research,” Heise said. “I’m here give you the tools to know how to get your research approved for use in the underground lab.”

So how does one get there research ideas approved with the Sanford Underground Research Facility?

Heise said, “There is a framework and I have broken it down into a few different parts.”

Project documentation is the first step, with several relationship documents that can be drafted up. Then one will need to fill out the experimental planning statementa��which explains what a person wants to do, what lab infrastructure you need to have, what you expect to get from your research, and a memorandum of understandinga��which is mostly about the safety rules at the underground facility. Basically what this does is set out the general expectations according to Dr. Heise. The general service agreement addresses any financial negotiations that happen. The example used by Dr. Heise was if someone needs liquid nitrogen for their experiment you fill out this form agreeing to pay for it and the lab will make sure you get what you need.

Insurance is also required to work underground. One has to have proof of general liability insurance as well as workers compensation. A person must also have a hazard analysis, or a document with the hazards that are associated with your research. Getting research into the lab involves lots of steps and is a rigorous process.

For more information on the Sanford Underground Research Facility or to talk about a project or research you may like to conduct there, contact Dr. Jaret Heise at [email protected].