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Neutrinos on Display

Senator Franken tours the Soudan Laboratory

While a particle physicist may tell you that neutrinos are fiendishly difficult to observe, the public visibility of neutrinos in Minnesota has changed dramatically with the approval of more than $40M of stimulus funding for the NOvA project.

The early-May groundbreaking for the NOvA Far Detector Laboratory construction project in Ash River, Minnesota was just the beginning. Construction work at the site is now well under way and northern Minnesota is abuzz with the excitement of being the center of neutrino physics in the United States, as well as being the site of the country's major deep underground science laboratory.

On Saturday, August 15th , Senator Al Franken and members of his staff visited the Soudan underground laboratory as the guests of the School of Physics and Astronomy, Fermilab and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (Photo Gallery). Guided by physicists Ken Heller, Ron Poling and Angela Reisetter, Fermilab communications director Judy Jackson, and Soudan lab staff members Jim Beaty and Jerry Meier, the senator toured the MINOS and CDMS experimental halls and received an introduction to neutrinos and the more mysterious and yet-to-be-detected dark matter particles. While weather conditions precluded a planned tour of the the Ash River NOvA site, Senator Franken learned about the physics of NOvA, as well as the impact of the project on the northern part of our state.

The approval of funding for NOvA has brought new visibility on the national scene to neutrinos and the role of the University of Minnesota in the major U.S. projects of the field. The science section of the Monday, August 17 edition of the Washington Post has an article about MINOS and NOvA that prominently features comments from Minnesota physicist Marvin Marshak, who is the principal investigator of the cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy under which the University is building the Far Detector Lab.