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Local People

Joseph A. Sholtis, Jr., a Monongahela native, and a 1966 graduate of Monongahela High School, recently received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of New Mexico for the Department of Nuclear Engineering.

Sholtis pic 2
Joseph A. Sholtis, Jr., Lt. Col. USAF (Ret.)

Sholtis earned his bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering from Penn State University and was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force in 1970. His first assignment at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, involved analysis of Soviet nuclear and space systems. In 1974, he came to the Air Force Weapons Lab at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, where he performed safety analyses and tests to support USAF and NASA nuclear-powered space missions. While at Kirtland, he began taking graduate nuclear engineering courses at the University of New Mexico.

He completed his master's degree in nuclear engineering at UNM in 1977, and was assigned to Sandia Labs as a USAF Laboratory Associate. There, he continued to take Ph.D. courses in nuclear engineering at UNM.

In 1980, Sholtis went to the D.C. area as the reactor facility director and chief of the Radiation Sources Division at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Bethesda, MD. Shortly after President Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars" program, he was selected as program manager of the $700 million joint Department of Defense/Department of Energy/NASA SP-100 Space Reactor Power System Development Program, also in the D.C. area. While there, he served as technical expert to the U.S. delegation to the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its Working Group on Nuclear Power in Space. In 1987, he returned to Albuquerque and the "blue suit" Air Force to get a research reactor built at McClellan Air Force Base in California for non-destructive inspection of F-15 wing sections, and to evaluate the radiological risk of NASA's Galileo and Ulysses nuclear-powered space missions for the White House.

In 1993, Sholtis retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel after almost 23 years of service, but immediately formed a consulting firm, continuing on as a nuclear, aerospace and systems engineer providing design, development, nuclear safety/risk assessment support to NASA and DoE, their contractors, and laboratories.

Sholtis and his wife, Cheryl, have two grown children, Christian and Carole, and six grandchildren, all of whom live in Albuquerque, NM.


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