Former astronomy postdoc named director of Large Binocular Telescope

May 31, 2022

Former astronomy postdoc named director of Large Binocular Telescope

Joseph Shields by the Large Binocular Telescope. Photo courtesy Ann Fidler

The Large Binocular Telescope
The Large Binocular Telescope, located on Mount Graham in southeast Arizona. 

Joseph Shields, a former postdoc in the Ohio State Department of Astronomy, was appointed director of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) Observatory, one of the largest and most advanced optical telescopes in the world. Shields’ appointment is effective June 6, 2022.

At Ohio University, Shields is currently vice president for research and creative activity and dean of the Graduate College and the former chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He earned his PhD in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a postdoc at Ohio State and a NASA Hubble Fellow at the University of Arizona prior to joining Ohio University’s faculty in 1996.

“I am pleased and honored to have the opportunity to lead the talented LBT staff during the observatory’s next phase as a pioneer in the realm of extremely large optical telescopes,” Shields said. “The LBT has a storied history and vibrant future in technological innovation and astronomical discovery, enabled by the distinctive expertise of its partner institutions.”

Shields’ appointment as director of the LBT further bolsters the observatory’s connection to Ohio State, which holds a 25% collaborative partnership of the facility with the University of Arizona, the Italian National Institute and for the Astrophysics and the LBT Beteiligungsgesellschaft, Germany.

"I enjoyed working with Joe on a large survey project 15 years ago, and I am looking forward to working with him again," said Christopher Kochanek, professor and Ohio Eminent Scholar in the Department of Astronomy and a member of the LBT board of directors.

Shields studies the physics of supermassive black holes in galaxies, using both ground-based and space-based observatories. He is also interested in the interstellar medium, star formation and supernovae. He is an author on more than 110 papers in peer-reviewed literature and served for four years as scientific editor of the Astrophysical Journal.

“Joe has a unique combination of astronomical experience, scientific vision and managerial capabilities that make him the perfect match for LBT,” said Adriano Fontana, chair of the LBT board of directors. “He will build on the unique role of LBT in fostering new astronomical discoveries and the development of cutting-edge observational techniques associated with adaptive optics and interferometry.”

The LBT is a unique astronomical facility located on Mount Graham in southeast Arizona. Featuring two mirrors side-by-side — like a pair of binoculars — the LBT has the capabilities of a 75½-foot telescope in some observing modes, making it the first of the next-generation extremely large telescopes.

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