Joseph Pechkis, Ph.D.​​

Physics Professor, Chico State
2020–21 Outstanding Faculty Recipient
B.A. Physics
M.S. Physics
Ph.D. Physics


What did it mean to you to become the first of your family to earn a degree?
Being the first generation in my family to attend college and earn a degree was very important because it would open doors for me that wouldn't have been possible. It ultimately led me to pursue a Ph.D., which was something I couldn't have even imagined being able to do while growing up.

What was the most challenging aspect?
As a first-generation student, it can be difficult to find the path forward when considering your future because you can't rely on previous generations for advice. Financially, it was challenging at times, too, since I had to balance school while working part-time to pay for living expenses. This became especially challenging in grad school when our son was born.

How did you use your degrees to become a leader in your community?
I volunteer in local elementary schools to give science demonstrations and lectures. I hope I can inspire kids to pursue more math and science.

How have you used your experience to assist first-gen students at the CSU?
I have worked with many first-gen students in our research lab. It's been exciting to see how much their scientific abilities have developed. It's especially rewarding since many of them have gone on to do summer research internships at national labs, such as Lawrence Livermore and the National Institute of Standards and Technologies. Now they are going off to successful careers in grad school and the industry as well. Students have been admitted to Yale, University of Colorado and University of Maryland.