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South Dakota Mines Joins Universities Research Association


November 6, 2023 - South Dakota Mines (SDM) announced this week it has been elected to the Universities Research Association (URA), whose mission is to “establish and operate – in the national interest – unique laboratories and facilities for research, development and education in the physical and biological sciences to expand the frontiers of knowledge, foster innovation and promote the education of future generations of scientists.”

The URA has been involved in several complex scientific endeavors, including the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which is being constructed at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, SD. 



 One of the caverns at the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.

One of the caverns at the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. (Image courtesy of South Dakota Mines).


Together with the University of Chicago, the URA operates the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory, the institution responsible for the DUNE project.

“That is certainly a large part of why the Universities Research Association was so interested in us joining,” Richard Schnee, physics professor at South Dakota Mines said in a statement. “DUNE is going to be, by many different measures, the largest science experiment in the United States. We have three excellent young faculty in our physics department working on DUNE.”

The URA was interested in adding expertise to the DUNE project not only in physics, but also engineering, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. These are areas that have been expanded at SDM.

“There are opportunities for faculty to collaborate with experts at Fermilab and take advantage of a lot of the infrastructure and facilities that the national labs have that are not possible here on campus,” Schnee said, adding that the URA is an excellent opportunity for SDM faculty researchers to get involved with other experts across the nation.

The URA and Fermilab have grants to pay salary and travel expenses for faculty, research scientists, students and postdoctoral fellows to work at Fermilab. The URA runs a similar program with Sandia National Laboratory.

There are over 90 research organizations within the URA, including Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale and the University of Michigan. South Dakota Mines is the only South Dakota university that is a member.