Dr. Rhett Herman


Professor of Physics (Adjunct Instructor of Geology)
Director, Radford University Planetarium

Office: Reed Hall 313
Department of Physics, PO Box 6983
Radford, VA  24142
540-831-5441 (office)    540-831-5652 (Dept. office) 

Courses Taught

PHYS 221 - Physics
PHYS 301 - Atmospheric Physics (formerly Meteorology)
PHYS 308 - Electricity and Magnetism
PHYS 309 - Electronics Laboratory
PHYS 324 - Arctic Geophysics Preparatory Seminar
PHYS 325 - Geophysical Field Research: Arctic Geophysics
PHYS 326 - Arctic Geophysics Capstone Seminar
PHYS 330 - Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
PHYS (GEOL) 406 - Geophysics
ASTR 421 - Solar System Astronomy
                                                   ASTR 422 - Galactic Astronomy and Cosmology


Ph D, Montana State University, 1996.    Physics
    Dissertation Title: Generalized DeWitt-Schwinger Point-Splitting Expansions for the Charged Scalar Field in Curved Space
MS, Montana State University, 1991.    Physics
BS, Wake Forest University, 1985.        Major: Physics, Chemistry


My current research focuses on numerous applications of near surface geophysics, especially as it applies to the study of arctic sea ice. I have worked extensively with students to create a number of pieces of equipment of our own design to measure sea ice properties. We are now working to develop an instrument to measure the ice thickness quickly over a large area, something that no one yet knows how to do. Much of this instrumental development is centered around Arduino microcontrollers, and has proven quite successful.

I lead the biennial Arctic Geophysics Research Experience, while culimates in a one- or two-week trip to Utquagvik, Alaska, in February/March of even-numbered years. On this trip, students deploy sensors on the sea ice of their own design, acquiring data through the novel methods of their own invention. All of these trips result in multiple student-led presentations at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world's largest gathering of earth and space scientists. 

I also work extensively with Radford University's Forensic Science Institute (FSI). My FSI work typically involves ground penetrating radar studies of both historic burial sites as well as working with law enforcement agencies on cold cases. A number of the cemetery projects have led to the identification of previously unknown Civil War-era burials. I have also worked with local industry to do geophysical site surveys for potential building sites. All of this work involves students who learn to use the equipment and how to process the data, and they create their final site analyses, leading to impressive items on their resumes.  

My original PhD research was in the field of semiclassical gravity as applied to both the exterior and interior structure of charged black holes. Semiclassical gravity is the uneasy merger of Einstein's General theory of Relativity with Quantum Mechanics. 


Boyd, C. C., Herman, R. B., Whisonant, R. C. "An Empirical Test of Dowsing." Quarterly Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Virginia - June, 2020, 75 (2), 77-85.  https://www.virginiaarcheology.org/

Boyd, C. Clifford, Whisonant, R. C., Herman, R. B., Montgomery, S. E., Stephenson, G. C., "Geophysical and Archaeological Investigations of a Civil War Gun Emplacement in Pulaski County, Virginia." Virginia Journal of Archaeologyhttps://www.virginiaarcheology.org/

Herman, R. B., Ashley, J., Ballowe, A. (2017). "Let’s catch a (heat) wave," The Physics Teacher, 55 (8), 488-491.  https://aapt.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1119/1.5008346

Herman, R. B. (2014). "Simple Ways to Make Real Capacitors," The Physics Teacher, 52, 482-484.  http://scitation.aip.org/content/aapt/journal/tpt/52/8/10.1119/1.4897586

Herman, R. B. (2009). "Spreadsheet physics: Examples in meteorology and planetary science," American Journal of Physics, 77, 1124-1129.  http://scitation.aip.org/content/aapt/journal/ajp/77/12/10.1119/1.3230033

Herman, R. B. (2002). "As simple as possible," The Physics Teacher, 40 (3), 182–183.  http://scitation.aip.org/content/aapt/journal/tpt/40/3/10.1119/1.1466556

Herman, R. B. (2001). "An introduction to electrical resistivity in geophysics," American Journal of Physics, 69, 943-952.  http://scitation.aip.org/content/aapt/journal/ajp/69/9/10.1119/1.1378013

Herman, R. B. (1998). "A method for calculating the imaginary part of the Hadamard Elementary function G(1)(x,x’) in a static spherically symmetric spacetime," Physical Review D, 58 (8).

Herman, R. B., Hiscock, W. A. (1996). "Renormalization of the charged scalar field in curved space," Physical Review D, 53(6).

Herman, R. B., Hiscock, W. A. (1994). "Discharge of the Electromagnetic Field of a Reissner-Nordstrom Black Hole," Physical Review D, 49 (8).

Hiscock, W. A., Herman, R. B. (1992). "Strength of the mass inflation singularity," Physical Review D, 46 (4).


I am the Director of the Radford University Planetarium and the Coordinator of the Radford University Artis College of Science and Technology's Science Days

When I arrived at Radford University in 1996, the original analog planetarium - wiht the last Goto SG-8 starball star projector ever installed - was unused. Over the course of the next 19 years, I was able to start shows for both classes and the general public. Through various McGyver-like hacks, the sound and projection capabilities were "upgraded" as well as the old faithful place would allow. The Planetarium become a destination for both the on- and off-campus community, eventually hosting a total of 40,000 cumulative visitors as of the place's final show in December of 2015. This success led to the construction of the new 55-seat state-of-the-art digital Radford University Planetarium in the new Center for the Sciences, a building that opened in January of 2016. The new place hosts hundreds of shows every year, with thousands of visitors, with the vast majority of these shows run by our enthusiastic workstudy students. Our shows are always free, and our goal is to educate everyone who joins us.

The Radford University/ACSAT Science Days are full days when e.g. a grade of a local - or not so local! - K-12 school comes to campus for a full slate of natural science activities. This includes a visit to the planetarium, physics/astronomy activities, a visit to the neighboring Museum of the Earth Sciences, chemistry activities, a visit to Radford University's Greenhouse, and sometimes more, depending on the visitors' time. This full day of rotating our K-12 visitors through the various activities are very popular, and will resume once the COVID-19 crisis is behind us.