Chair steps down to join the ranks of faculty

On June 29, the Physics and Astronomy department will say goodbye to Dr. Michael Briley as department chair and welcome him full-time to the ranks of our exceptional faculty.

Dr. Briley received his bachelors in science from Ohio State University with a major in astronomy. He then went on to receive his masters and his doctorate in astronomy from the University of Maryland.

Before coming to Appalachian, Dr. Briley spent four years at the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory and 17 years at the Physics and Astronomy department at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and as department chair during the final six years. While at Wisconsin, he also spent four years at the Director of the Stellar Astronomy and Astrophysics program at the National Science Foundation.

In June 2011, Dr. Briley joined the Appalachian State University Physics and Astronomy department as chair, where he has served for the past seven years. During this time, our department has grown to be the largest undergraduate physics program in the state of North Carolina.

Dr. Briley grew up enjoying math and physics and always knew he would have a career in some sort of science. But it wasn't until he took his first astronomy course that he realized he wanted to be an astronomer (or a mechanic - that was his other choice).

"What finally got me was the ability to poke around on Earth to figure out how things work and then apply that understanding to what is going on in space," Dr. Briley said. "To be able to take the physics and things we see around us here and apply it to get answers, that just captivates me."

With only two months left as department chair, Dr. Briley is ready to spend more time in the classroom and behind a telescope. He has already published more than 50 papers mostly on what old stars are made out of and what that tells us about how they work and how the Galaxy formed. He intends to continue his work in this area. He is also looking forward to collaborating with Dr. Courtney McGahee and Dr. Richard Gray on some of their upcoming projects (like stars surrounded by giant shells of expanding gas) and well as working with longtime collaborators at Indiana University and UC Santa Cruz.

As the department prepares for the change in leadership, we are also ready to welcome Dr. Jennifer Burris to take over as chair.

"I don't know that she needs a lot of advice, she has a lot of experience from the Dean's office and I think she is going to be a fabulous chair," Dr. Briley said. Amidst all of the meetings and paperwork, "don't let it get ahead of you. Don't lose sight of why you are doing this."

Five Fun Facts about Dr. Briley:

  • Favorite movie: Brazil
  • Favorite movie snack: M&M's
  • Favorite place to vacation: Scotland
  • Favorite pizza topping: Cheese (says the man from Wisconsin)
  • Pizza/ice cream: Ice cream (any kind)
Michael Briley
Published: May 3, 2018 3:09pm