The USD department of physics hosted Dark Matter Day to educate more students on its research about a relatively unknown topic.
About 100 students and faculty snacked on dark chocolate and asked questions after listening to a lecture on the dark matter research that’s being conducted on campus.
USD professors Joel Sander and Dongming Mei led the Monday event with lectures on dark matter, its detection and their research.
“Internationally, there are activities going on and there are the two biggest dark matter experiments in the U.S.,” Sander said. “Dongming and I are involved in one and I’m involved with the other, so how can you not (hold the event)? This has been a lifetime’s worth of work of researching, so it’s exciting to get a chance to share what’s dear to my heart.”
Sander works with the SuperCDMS dark matter search experiment, which has the world’s highest sensitivity to low-mass Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). Sander said his research will prove if WIMPS are a component of dark matter in the next 10 years.
Mei leads the effort in researching germanium and dark matter detectors while collaborating with scientists worldwide in experiments at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). Mei also leads PIRE-GEMADARC, which is also a worldwide collaboration that develops germanium detectors for searching for dark matter.
Junior business management major Nick Rabern said he thinks the event was well-attended.
“I think a lot of people learned a lot of new stuff about it,” he said. “If new events do come, there will be more people that are curious to know more about it.”
Sander said the next planned event is the Astronomy Day lecture that will take place in April.
“Often times we’ve had very good speakers,” he said. “We’ve had astronauts, we’ve had Nobel laureates and we just about a month ago had the Nobel Prize winner in physics here before the laureate was announced, so it will be good.”
Junior marketing major Jake Stotts said he learned a lot from the discussion.
“I think they brought up a lot of good points, knew their stuff and how to deliver it,” he said. “Not many people know very much about dark matter, even the scientists themselves. So I think it’s really interesting to go to an event like this where they talk about not only what we do know, but also what we don’t know.”