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SD Mines new president tours Sanford Underground Lab

Heather Wilson

LEAD (AP) -- The new president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has gotten an up-close look at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead.

Officials at the federally supported lab nearly a mile underground are conducting research on complex subjects such as nuclear reactions within stars and dark matter, an elusive substance that scientists believe makes up about 25 percent of the universe. School of Mines President Heather Wilson toured the lab Monday and said she was impressed with the facility.

Wilson said the relationship between the school and the research lab is important because each can help the other, especially with the possibility of the facility getting approval for more experiments.

"It pays big benefits for us in terms of teaching, but also in terms of advancing knowledge," she said.

The former congresswoman from New Mexico has been a consultant for top-tier defense contractors and science laboratories. She took over leadership at the 2,400-student Rapid City school earlier this month.

The South Dakota Board of Regents has stood behind the decision to hire her, despite an Energy Department report saying she collected nearly half a million dollars in questionable payments from four federally funded nuclear labs after leaving office.

Wilson said her work was done in full compliance with contracts and that the labs were satisfied with it.