Dr. Michael Briggs



The primary research interests of Dr. Michael S. Briggs are Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) and Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs). He arrived in Huntsville in 1991 soon after the launch of the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) on the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (CGRO) as a NASA Compton Gamma Ray Observatory Fellow to pursue his interest in GRBs. With BATSE Dr. Briggs studied GRB spectra and spatial distributions. Tighter constraints on the isotropy of GRBs made a galactic origin for GRBs increasing untenable. After the end of the Compton Observatory mission he helped develop the Fermi Gamma-Ray Burst Monitor (GBM), leading the development of the GBM flight software and participating in the integration and testing of the instrument. GBM proved to be unexpectedly useful for the study of Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes. TGFs are very brief flashes of gamma-rays emitted during thunderstorms. Using Fermi GBM data, Dr. Briggs showed that TGFs emit positrons (anti-matter electrons) into space. In 2015 he became the Deputy Principal Investigator of GBM.

Dr. Briggs has worked for UAH since 1991, currently as a Principal Research Scientist and as Assistant Director of the Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research. He is also an Adjunct Professor of the Department of Space Science. He graduated with a A.B. degree from Princeton University in 1982 and received a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 1991. Dr. Briggs was selected as the 2015 UAH Researcher of the Year and received the NASA's Exceptional Public Achievement Medal in 2020.

Dr. Briggs is Principal Investigator of the NSF-funded Terrestrial RaYs Analysis and Detection (TRYAD) mission, which is designed to measure the beam profiles and tilts of TGFs using a pair of CubeSats separated by several hundred kilometers in low Earth orbit. CubeSats are a type of nano-satellite designed for fast and low-cost access to space. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is responsible for the gamma-ray detectors and science results, while Auburn University will develop the CubeSats and conduct mission operations. NASA/GSFC is assisting with the design of the instrument electronics. TRYAD development is mostly being done by undergraduate students at UAH and Auburn.

Dr. Briggs is also a co-I of the BurstCube CubeSat project, which is lead by NASA/GSFC. Planned for launch in several years, BurstCube will detect and localize GRBs. The goal is to increase sky coverage to increase the number of GRB counterparts to gravitational wave detections. Based on his experience from the GBM flight software, Dr. Briggs is leading the development of the BurstCube instrument flight software.

Dr. Briggs has a role in efforts to bring new gamma-ray flight projects to Huntsville. NASA selected the LargE Area burst Polarimeter (LEAP) for study to possibly fly on the International Space Station to measure the polarization of the gamma-rays of GRBs.

Dr. Michael Briggs's Curriculum Vitae


  • Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 1991
  • M.S., University of California, San Diego, 1984
  • A.B., Princeton University, 1982

Recent Grants and Contracts

  • Title: Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM)
    Role: UAH PI
    Source: NASA
    Period: 04/01/2011 – 03/31/2021
    Amount: $5,148,967
  • Title: Classifying Fermi GBM Sub-threshold Transients
    Role: PI
    Period: 10/1/2020 – 9/31/2021
    Amount: $74,969
  • Title: Distinguishing between TGF Production Models with Joint Observations of Fermi GBM and ASIM
    Role: PI
    Period: 10/1/2020 – 9/31/2021
    Amount: $73,684
  • Title: Glowbug, a Gamma-Ray Telescope for Bursts and Other Transients
    Role: UAH PI
    Source: NASA/MSFC
    Period: 03/01/2020 – 03/31/2021
    Amount: $35,395
  • Title: Gamma-ray Detector Development
    Role: UAH PI
    Program: NASA/MSFC
    Period: 04/01/2020 – 03/31/2021
  • Title: Collaborative Research CubeSat: Observing Terrestrial Gamma-ray (TGF) Beams with a Pair of CubeSats (735322)
    Role: PI
    Program: NSF AGS 1445496
    Period: 08/15/2015 – 07/31/2022
    Amount: $409,642
  • Title: BurstCube: A CubeSat for Gravitational Wave Counterparts (735369)
    Role: UAH PI
    Program: GSFC (NASA APRA)
    Period: 6/29/2018 – 6/25/2023
    Amount: $569,077

Selected Publications

  • “A Fermi Gamma‐ray Burst Monitor Event Observed as a Terrestrial Gamma‐ray Flash and Terrestrial Electron Beam”, M. Stanbro, M. S. Briggs, O. J. Roberts , E. S. Cramer, J.R. Dwyer , R.H. Holzworth, B.G. Mailyan & S.L. Xiong, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, (2019), doi:10.1029/2019JA026749, https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019JA026749
  • “Analysis of Individual Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flashes with Lightning Leader Models and Fermi Gamma-Ray Burst Monitor Data”, B. G. Mailyan, W. Xu, S. Celestin, M. S. Briggs, J. R. Dwyer, E. S. Cramer, O. J. Roberts, M. Stanbro, J. Geophys. Res. Space Physics, 124, (2019), doi:10.1029/2019JA026912, https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019JA026912
  • “The First Fermi‐GBM Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flash Catalog”, O. J. Roberts, G. Fitzpatrick, M. Stanbro, S. McBreen, M. S. Briggs, R. H. Holzworth, J. E. Grove, A. Chekhtman, E. S. Cramer & B. G. Mailyan, J. Geo. Res. Space Physics, (2018), doi:10.1029/2017JA024837, https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2017JA024837