Joe Shields graduated from KU with bachelors degrees in physics and astronomy in 1985. He completed a PhD in astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley, and his dissertation was awarded the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Trumpler Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Astronomy in North America. Shields held appointments as a postdoctoral research associate at Ohio State University and Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory. He is currently a faculty member at Ohio University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, a department similar in many ways to that at KU. Shields’ research interests include the properties of galaxy nuclei and the interstellar medium, which he studies with observatories on the ground and in space. At Ohio Shields served as department chair for six years, and is currently Vice President for Research & Creative Activity and Dean of the Graduate College.