Alain Brizard Physics Department Chair, Professor of Physics

Alain Brizard


Ph.D. Princeton University
M.Sc. Quebec University
B.Sc. Sherbrooke University

Areas of Expertise:
Space, fusion and astrophysical plasma physics, astrophysics and cosmology (theoretical physics).


Chief Research Interests:

Space, fusion and astrophysical plasma physics, astrophysics and cosmology (theoretical physics).

Recent News

Alain Brizard of the physics faculty during fall 2022 semester appeared on the local news station NBC5, the Plattsburgh-Burlington area network affiliate, to talk about major space news from NASA in late September. The reporter, Carolyn Sistrand, came to campus in order to interview Alain next to the distinctive Observatory that the College owns across Route 15 from main campus between Pomerleau Alumni Center and the Sutton Firehouse and Public Safety headquarters. Alain also presented the second of three talks for fall semester in the Solutions for Social Impact” seminar series, about his work on nuclear fusion.  In December when major fusion news made national media, USA Today and several Burlington-area TV stations interviewed Alain about it.
(posted February 2023)

Alain Brizard of the Saint Michael’s physics faculty this spring had some good news about his ongoing contributions to international fusion power initiatives. “I am grateful that the National Science Foundation has decided to continue funding my research in plasma theory for the next three years,” he posted on social media. Alain had been among the world’s leading theorists in theoretical fusion plasma research for nearly 40 years. As he has explained: “Based on the theory, I transform the physics equations into mathematical models that can be used in the computer programs that simulate real experiments.” Such work is a vital step in fusion research and development, which would be too complex and costly to allow meaningful progress absent the predictions of the sort that Brizard and his colleagues make. Brizard’s particular expertise is plasma physics, the realm in which fusion shows its promise. The Saint Michael’s professor’s direct association with fusion initiatives is primarily focused with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) fusion reactor in France. Alain also this spring gave a remote Colloquium at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.
(Posted July 2022)

Bret Findley of the chemistry faculty, Alain Brizard of the physics faculty and George Ashline of the mathematics faculty all managed to supervise substantial student research projects over the summer despite the pandemic by using virtual tools when necessary. Bret supervised one project on introducing students to “computational chemistry”; Bret and George oversaw a student project developing exercises for students that more clearly link calculus and chemistry; Alain supervised a project exploring oscillating chemical reactions.
(posted February 2021)

Alain Brizard of the Saint Michael’s physics faculty shares that in December 2020, his  paper titled “Hamiltonian formulations for perturbed dissipationless plasma equations,” written in collaboration with Cristel Chandre (University Aix-Marseille), was published in the journal Physics of Plasmas.
(posted February 2021)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, had three peer-reviewed papers published this year: (1) “Perturbative variational formulation of the Vlasov-Maxwell equations” published in Physics of Plasmas; (2) Comment on “Exact solutions and singularities of an x-point collapse in Hall magnetohydrodynamics” published in the Journal of Mathematical Physics; and (3) “Gauge-free electromagnetic gyrokinetic theory” published in Physics Letters A (with J.W. Burby at the Los Alamos National Laboratory). Paper (2) was also the topic of a student-faculty research project (with Colin Myrick, 2020), which was presented by Colin at the 2019 International Sherwood Fusion Theory conference in Princeton in April. Lastly, in May 2019, Brizard gave a seminar “A survey of applications of ray phase-space eikonal methods in linear wave conversion” at the Department of Mathematics of the University of Surrey (UK), where he also was the external examiner for a PhD defense.
(posted June 2019)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, published three peer-reviewed papers: (1) Exact Solutions and Singularities of an X-Point collapse in Hall magnetohydrodynamics; (2) Perturbative variational formulation of the Vlasov-Maxwell equations; and (3) Centrifugal particle confinement in mirror geometry (co-authored with R.B. White, Princeton, and A. Hassam, Maryland). Alain also was presented the annual major faculty award for scholarship and artistic achievement during this year’s annual Academic Convocation in McCarthy Arts Center on September 21, 2018.
(posted January 2019)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, in recent months has had three papers published in the journal Physics of Plasmas: (1) Centrifugal particle confinement in mirror geometry; (2) Gauge-free electromagnetic gyrokinetic theory; and (3) Perturbative variational formulation of the Vlasov-Maxwell equations. Paper (3) was also presented at the Sherwood Fusion Theory conference in Auburn (Alabama) in April 2018 and Paper (2) will be presented at the 19th International Congress on Plasma Physics in Vancouver (Canada) from June 4-8, 2018. Alain was awarded a three-year grant ($151,750) from the National Science Foundation, which will cover his summer research during the period 2018-2020. This theoretical project, entitled “Nonlinear reduced Hamiltonian and collisional gyrokinetic transport models,” will include collaborations with US and European physicists.
(posted June 2018)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, was “host” during a rare partial solar eclipse as experienced by nearly 100 Saint Michael’s people around his small telescope set up by the large clock on the main campus green on Aug. 21. Many donned special glasses to view the eclipse. Alain brought out his 40-year-old, personal 3.5-inch Questar telescope and set it up on a table at the site around 1 p.m., shortly after the moon first started to visibly move over the sun, and stayed till the eclipse was over several hours later.
(posted December 2017)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, during a sabbatical leave in the 2017 spring semester, has taught a short course in gyrokinetic theory at the Institute for Fusion Theory and Simulation at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou (China), April 10-21,the Department of Applied Physics of Aalto University in Espoo (Finland), May 1-18, and the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald (Germany), June 12-24. These short courses were or will be taught to graduate students and postdocs as part of his work in writing a graduate-level textbook on gyrokinetic theory (to be published by World Scientific later this year). In the past two years, Alain has published seven peer-reviewed articles with collaborators both in the US and abroad in Physics of Plasmas, the Journal of Plasma Physics, and Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation (with an undergraduate math major at Saint Michael’s). In 2016-2017, he also presented nearly 20 seminars, invited talks, and contributed presentations at national and international conferences.
(posted June 2017)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, published a peer-reviewed paper, “Motion in an asymmetric double well,” in the professional journal Commun Nonlinear Sci Numer Simulat. He wrote the paper in collaboration with a former Saint Michael’s College student, mathematics major Melissa Westland ’16.
(posted November 2016)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, co-authored the following peer-reviewed publications: N. Tronko and A.J. Brizard, 2015, “Lagrangian and Hamiltonian constraints for guiding-center Hamiltonian theories,” Physics of Plasmas 22, 112507:1-10; J.W. Burby, A.J. Brizard, and H. Qin, 2015, “Energetically-consistent collisional gyrokinetics,” Physics of Plasmas 22, 100707:1-5; and J.W. Burby, A.J. Brizard, P.J. Morrison, and H. Qin, 2015, “Hamiltonian formulation of the gyrokinetic Vlasov-Maxwell equations,” Physics Letters A 379, 2073-2077. Alain also made these conference and seminar presentations: “Reduced collisional gyrokinetic dynamics in strongly magnetized plasmas,” NumKin 2015, Max-Planck-Institut für Plasma Physik, Garching (Germany), October 26-30, 2015; and three seminars given at the Swiss Plasma Center, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne (Swiss Confederation): Variational Formulations of Hybrid Kinetic-MHD Models, November 13, 2015Reduced Collision Operators for Gyrokinetic Applications, November 11, 2015and, A guided Tour of Gyrokinetic Theory, November 9, 2015.
(posted January 2016)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, has published two textbooks: (1) An Introduction to Lagrangian Mechanics (2nd Edition), World Scientific (2015); and (2) Ray Tracing and Beyond, with E.R. Tracy (William and Mary), A.S. Richardson (Naval Research Laboratory), and A.N. Kaufman (UC Berkeley), Cambridge University Press (2014). Alain has also been awarded a $145,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for the next three years to support his summer research activities.
(poster April 2015)

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, had two articles accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Physics of Plasmas: “Monte Carlo implementation of a guiding-center Fokker-Planck kinetic equation” in a collaboration with physicists from Aalto University (Finland); and “Beyond linear gyrocenter polarization in gyrokinetic theory.” A third publication, “Exact conservation laws for the truncated gyrokinetic Vlasov-Poisson equations,” in a collaboration with N. Tronko (York Plasma Institute, UK), also was published in the Proceedings of the 40th European Physical Society Conference on Plasma Physics (held in Helsinki, Finland, in June 2013). Alain’s second textbook, Ray Tracing and Beyond: Phase-space Methods in Plasma Wave Theory, written in collaboration with A.N. Kaufman (Berkeley), E.R. Tracy (William and Mary), and A.S. Richardson (Naval Research Lab), was submitted to Cambridge University Press (with a tentative release date of January 2014). Lastly, Alain gave a seminar, “Guiding-center effects in gyrokinetic momentum conservation laws for axisymmetric tokamak plasmas,” at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab on August 22.

Alain Brizard, professor of physics, had two papers accepted for publication this summer: “Action-angle coordinates for the pendulum,” to be published in Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation, and comment on “Geometric phase of the gyromotion for charged particles in a time-dependent magnetic field” (with Loic de Guillebon), to be published in Physics of Plasmas. Alain also presented the seminar “Beyond linear polarization in gyrokinetic theory” at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (Princeton University) on July 31, 2012, and the Center for Theoretical Physics Luminy (Marseille, France) on July 18, 2012. Lastly, he submitted the following manuscripts for publication in Physics of Plasmas: “Gyrokinetic momentum conservation in truncated gyrokinetic Vlasov-Maxwell theory” (with Natalia Tronko, CFSA, Warwick University, UK), “Equivalent representations of higher-order Hamiltonian guiding-center theory” (with Natalia Tronko, CFSA, Warwick University, UK), and “Hamiltonian formulation of reduced Vlasov-Maxwell equations” (with Cristel Chandre and Emanuele Tassi, CPT Luminy, France).