Rhett Herman is a professor of physics whose Ph.D. work was in semi-classical gravity, which is a theoretical attempt to merge Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity with Quantum Mechanics in the curved spacetimes of black holes. He received his B.S. (1985) in both physics and chemistry from Wake Forest University, matriculated at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine (1985-1988), and received a M.S. (1991) and a Ph.D. (1996) in physics from Montana State University.
Since coming to Radford University in 1996, his research has evolved into the field of near-surface geophysics. He has taught the regular geophysics class since then, and has developed an active research program involving a large number of students and other faculty members. He went with two students to the North Pole in 2003, a trip that sparked his interest in Arctic geophysics. He first taught the special Arctic Geophysics class with a trip to conduct electrical resistivity research with a student on the north polar ice cap just offshore from Barrow, Alaska in the winter of 2006. Since then he has taken three trips to Barrow to continue these geophysical studies of the sea ice, each of which involved an ever-expanding number of students and geophysical instruments. Each of these trips has generated presentations at the annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest gathering of earth and space scientists.
In the summers of 2006 and 2011, he traveled to Barrow to use geophysical techniques to search for pre-historic Inupiat burials at Point Barrow in the hopes of recovering the remains before rising sea levels erode the burial grounds and sweep the remains out into the Arctic Ocean. His geophysical work is a part of the Radford University Forensic Science Institute, and he has conducted a number of geophysical surveys related to both archaeological studies as well as law enforcement cases. He has applied geophysical techniques to a number of Civil War studies in concert with a group of RU faculty members.
He was awarded the “College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award” for 1999-2000, the “Dr. Preston Durrill Academic Advising Award” in 2003, the “Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award” in 2007, was the winter commencement speaker in December 2007, the “Advisory Excellence Award for work with the Pre-Dental Club” in 2010, and has been recognized by the Chesapeake Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers for a number of talks given at their meetings. He is the director of the Radford University Planetarium and coordinator of the Radford University Science Days science outreach effort.