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BHSU science building to get $4.5M transformation

SPEARFISH (AP) — The Sanford Underground Research Facility and Black Hills State University are working together to transform a building on the Spearfish campus into a state-of-the-art science education center.

The $4.5 million renovation of the Jonas Science Building is to begin next summer and is expected to take about a year to complete. Officials say it will be linked to the Sanford Science Education Center in Lead and will strengthen the existing partnership between the university and the lab.

Officials at the federally supported lab nearly a mile underground in the former Homestake gold mine are conducting research on complex subjects such as nuclear reactions within stars and dark matter, an elusive substance that scientists believe makes up about one-fourth of the universe.

The science building renovation is "a gift that will create opportunities across South Dakota for generations to come," BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp said. "This investment by Mr. T. Denny Sanford and the Science Authority will pay big dividends."

About $2.5 million for the project is coming from money provided by philanthropist Sanford, for whom the underground lab is named. The South Dakota Science and Technology Authority is using a $70 million gift from Sanford to convert the former gold mine into a world-class underground research lab. Sanford directed that part of his donation be used for education.

"Denny Sanford is committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers," said Authority Board President Casey Peterson. "This investment will allow students to be involved with world-class study and advancements in physics and other scientific disciplines."

The investment will augment established outreach programs in Lead, including a recent proposal to partner with the Lead Chamber for a joint visitor center on Main Street, Peterson said.

Black Hills State is contributing $2 million to the renovation project, which Schallenkamp said will include videoconferencing ability between the campus and underground labs.

"Having this world-class science laboratory in our backyard has created new research opportunities for our faculty and students across a variety of disciplines," she said.