Matthew Lein Earns Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Radon is a “sticky” noble gas which can have deleterious impact to humans when breathed over long periods of time.  A signature for Radon gas is in a spontaneous emission of an alpha particle of a characteristic energy in a well understood radioactive process. Instrumenting your basement with a device to monitor Radon gas continuously is not generally an affordable project, high precision measuring devices cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Radon gas is commonplace deep underground in the stokes and caverns of the Homestake Lab, located near Sturgis in South Dakota.  An international collaboration of scientists and engineers are working to build a sensitive neutrino detector at the 4850 foot level at Homestake. The DUNE “Far” detector will record particle tracks spawned by neutrinos produced in an intense beam at Chicago’s Fermi National Acceleration Laboratory, the projected goal being sometime in the mid 2020’s.

To meet what is a rather challenging engineering timeline to produce a sophisticated state of the art detection platform, the protoDUNE detector is being tested at CERN labs, near Geneva Switzerland.  In the effort to establish a robust and effective design, researchers are being asked to poke and prod on the systems related to the protoDUNE detector, where VCSU Software Engineering student Matthew Lein hopes to contribute.

The idea is to ensure that background “noise” from the energetics associated with radioactivity elements near and in the detector is well understood, noted Matthew in a recent working meeting in Rhoades Science on the VCSU campus.

In a partnership with Dr. Luke Corwin, professor of physics at the South Dakota School of Mines, Matthew is designing a hardware interface for Corwin’s high precision radon gas detection system so that measurements can be recorded to centralized databases located at Fermilab, no doubt hopping through a number of security and design challenges.

“Matthew is an exceptional student, his consistent focus and ability to quickly solve new problems is an appreciated talent,” notes his faculty mentor David DeMuth, “and an excellent programmer.”

Matthew’s DUNE focused research is funded through a recent $3,600 award from the ND Space Grant Program.

Valley City State University joined the DUNE Collaboration in 2016 and is presently the only campus in North Dakota represented  in the international membership of 175 institutions and 32 countries.

For more information on the DUNE project, see