Dr. Michael Briggs

Assistant Director,
Principal Research Scientist VI Adjunct Professor


320 Sparkman Drive
Cramer Research Hall
Room 2050
Huntsville, AL 35899
Campus Map



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.

Curriculum Vitae


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

Research Funding

  • 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

Recent 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

  • "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

  • "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

  • "Fermi Observations of the LIGO Event GW170104", A. Goldstein, et al., Ap. J. Lett., 846, (2017)

  • "Terrestrial gamma ray flashes due to particle acceleration in tropical storm systems", O. J. Roberts, G. Fitzpatrick, G. Priftis, K. Bedka, T. Chronis, S. McBreen, M. S. Briggs, E. Cramer, B. Mailyan, M. Stanbro, J. Geo. Res. Atmospheres, (2017), doi:10.1002/2016JD025799

  • "Characteristics of Thunderstorms that produce Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes", T. Chronis, M. S. Briggs, G. Priftis, V. Connaughton, J. Brundell, R. Holzworth, S. Heckman, S. McBreen, G. Fitzpatrick & M. Stanbro, Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 97 (4): 639–653., (2016), doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-14-00239.1

  • "The First Pulse of the Extremely Bright GRB 130427A: A Test Lab for Synchrotron Shocks", R. Preece, J. M. Burgess, A. von Kienlin, P. N. Bhat, M. S. Briggs, D. Byrne, V. Chaplin, et al., Science, 343: 6166, 51–54, (2014), doi:10.1126/science.1242302

  • "Time-Resolved Analysis of Fermi Gamma-Ray Bursts with Fast- and Slow-Cooled Synchrotron Photon Models", J. M. Burgess, R. D. Preece, V. Connaughton, M. S. Briggs, A. Goldstein, et al., ApJ, 784, 17, (2014), doi:10.1088/0004-637X/784/1/17

  • "The source altitude, electric current, and intrinsic brightness of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes", S. A. Cummer, M. S. Briggs, J. R. Dwyer, S. Xiong, V. Connaughton, G. J. Fishman, G. Lu, F. Lyu & R. Solanki, Geo. Res. Lett., 41 8586–8593, (2014), doi:0.1002/2014GL062196

  • "Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes in the Fermi Era: Improved Observations and Analysis Methods", M. S. Briggs, S. Xiong, V. Connaughton, D. Tierney, G. Fitzpatrick, et al., J. Geo. Res. Space Physics, 118, 6, 3805, doi:10.1002/jgra.50205, (2013), doi:10.1002/jgra.50205