Neal G. Sumerlin, PhD

Professor of Chemistry
Director of the Belk Observatory

Experience and Background

I have taught at Lynchburg College for 34 years, ever since arriving on campus immediately after completing my PhD work in nuclear chemistry at the University of Arkansas. For most of my career, I taught a variety of chemistry courses, ranging from special topics courses in nuclear chemistry to organic chemistry (only once and never again). But mainly I taught the introductory Fundamentals of Chemistry course for science majors, and Physical Chemistry.

Beginning in 2003, I have taught two introductory astronomy courses for general education, and since 2007, I have been the director of the Belk Astronomical Observatory at the Claytor Nature Study Center.


B.S. in Professional Chemistry (1972) Ouachita University
PhD in Nuclear Chemistry (1977) University of Arkansas

Professional Interests

They are very much focused on the observatory, which has three missions:

  1. Laboratory facility for astronomy classes
  2. Research facility for faculty/student collaborative research
  3. Public outreach to the community beyond Lynchburg College

Courses Taught

I am on sabbatical for the fall semester of 2010. In the spring semester of 2011, I will teach

PHYS 181 Solar System Astronomy
PHYS 182 Stellar Astronomy

Personal Information

I'm a native of Texas and Arkansas, and can claim either depending on who is listening. Astronomy is both a professional and a personal interest, and I never step outside without at least a glance at the sky, day or night. I love to read, and I read widely: everything from current affairs to philosophy to history to science fiction to classic novels to detective fiction. My wife Jane is a native of Arkansas (only!), and we have been married for 36 years. We have a son who is working locally in Lynchburg, and a daughter who is completing her undergraduate college work with an internship in New York City this semester.