Mark Hanhardt is an experiment support scientist at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF), a PhD student at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, and a part-time supervillain. In addition to assisting with many of the ongoing experiments at SURF, Mark was the Operations Manager for the LUX (Large Underground Xenon) dark matter search during its run and now works as a researcher on the CASPAR (Compact Accelerator System for Performing Astrophysical Research) project.
Mark grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota surrounded by mining culture. His father, Jim Hanhardt, was an underground miner at the Homestake Gold Mine. Fascinated by the stars, Mark pursued a career in nuclear physics and astrophysics, but he had no way to know that the Homestake Gold Mine, just 12 miles from his hometown, would one day be host to SURF and a unique environment where he would study how the stars work from a mile under the surface of the Earth.
In addition to his work assisting the various physics, geology, biology, and engineering projects at SURF, Mark’s nuclear astrophysics research in pursuit of his PhD and his ongoing attempts to develop superpowers, Mark is passionate about STEM outreach. He participates as often as time allows in talking to community organizations and students from first grade through high school about the experiments underway at SURF and their impact on the world.
Mark is still fascinated by the stars and takes every opportunity to go out and watch them. He enjoys spending time outdoors in the Black Hills, building electronic and mechanical projects of questionable quality and function, and speaking in third person.