RESPEC and the School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T) have always had a strong connection—after all, RESPEC was founded in 1969 by five professors from SDSM&T with backgrounds in civil, electrical, mechanical, mining, and geological engineering. The initial business opportunities pursued included water pollution studies, tunneling, mining, and related research. We have built a reputation for expertise in geomechanics, numerical modeling, heat transfer, and fluid flow to solve practical problems in mining and civil engineering.
In the 1980s, RESPEC developed a world-class materials testing laboratory for testing core samples from proposed sites for nuclear waste repositories. We were also advancing quickly to the forefront in information technologies and computers. In the 1990s, with rapidly expanding expertise, RESPEC divided into three business areas: Mining & Energy, Water & Natural Resources, and Information Technologies.
Over the last 43 years, RESPEC leaders have continued their involvement with SDSM&T by serving with the Alumni Association, the Foundation, the University Advisory Board, and various department industrial advisory boards. We have partnered with SDSM&T on key projects involving the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources, the Deep Underground Science Laboratory, the South Dakota Department of Transportation, and the Department of Energy. RESPEC has hired over 45 SDSM&T graduates since 1972 with 33 alumni currently employed. In addition, four SDSM&T alumni serve on our Board of Directors.
Now, we are again expanding our relationship with SDSM&T with a financial commitment of $250,000 over the next 5 years to support undergraduate research. We have committed to match employee donations up to a combined total of $50,000 per year for 5 years. A portion of the funds will be used immediately to support research, and the rest of the funds will be endowed for the same purpose. Endowments allow for the principal to be invested with the earnings funding the annual awards, which enables the fund to continue in perpetuity. Twenty-four SDSM&T alumni employed by RESPEC have already stepped up to support this initiative. Projects under the Undergraduate Research Grant will be considered in early 2013 with research beginning in the fall of 2013.
Vice President of Mining & Energy Dr. Lance Roberts states, "The School of Mines has been an integral part of RESPEC going all the way back to 1969 when the company was founded. Through the past 40-plus years, RESPEC and the School of Mines have worked collaboratively on numerous projects and the School has provided a link to the tremendous talent that we have working for us today. With this grant, RESPEC hopes to support the engineering and science leaders of tomorrow while advancing the School's research mission in complementary areas."