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State university will have direct link to Sanford labs

Sanford Underground Research Facility

Sanford Underground Research Facility

A special branch of Black Hills State University will be nearly one mile deep in the old Homestake gold mine.

The university will have its own laboratory in the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

A video-conferencing feed will connect the lab with Jonas Hall on the main campus at Spearfish.

Approximately $4.5 million is earmarked for major renovations at the science hall.

Together they will be the stages for what BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp envisions as a transformation in teaching science and mathematics in South Dakota.

“It’s exciting,” Schallenkamp said during a recent meeting with board members for the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority.

The panel oversees the gradual conversion of the old mine into a major international research center using federal, state and private sources of funds, including a $70 million donation from credit-card banker T. Denny Sanford.

“It really is an amazing opportunity for the university,” she said. “We think the synergy will just be amazing.”

The BHSU “underground campus” will be 2,500 square feet of space. Completion is targeted for mid-2015, with the authority providing $300,000 and the university $150,000.

The authority’s executive director, Mike Headley, said BHSU has “one of the strongest partnerships or projects” with the Sanford center among South Dakota’s public universities.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology also will be deeply involved in another project called CASPAR. That stands for compact accelerator system for performing astrophysical research.

The University of Notre Dame and the Colorado School of Mines will be part of CASPAR as well. The project’s lifetime is set for 10 years and possibly longer. Construction is planned to start later this year, with installation of equipment set for 2015.

A giant project known as the long baseline neutrino experiment is moving forward too. It will involve 80 institutions and 450 collaborators including scientists from the United Kingdom and possibly India and European nations.

Preliminary design of the LBNE facility is scheduled for later this year, with construction to begin in late 2017 at an estimated cost of $275 million to build.

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