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Student Spotlight: Josh Gillis

June 1, 2022 | By Michelle Franklin


Student athlete Josh Gillis will graduate this spring with a B.S. in chemistry and a minor in business. He is a member of the UC San Diego Track & Field team, where he is in the top ten for javelin throws in the Big West Conference. Josh pushes himself to excel in everything he does whether on the field, in the lab, or even in his artwork. Read more about his accomplishments in our Student Spotlight Q&A.

Q: Please tell us your name, college and hometown.
Josh Gillis: My name is Josh Gillis. I’m in Muir College and my hometown is Roseville, which is near Sacramento.

Q: How did you get interested in track and field?
JG: I did several sports in middle school, but there was one kid who said, “I can beat you in the long jump.” I said, “No you can’t.” So in 6th grade I started doing track and I beat him. After that, I did a bunch of other events like the high jump, 100m, pole vault and shotput. Soon I realized track and field might be the sport for me.

Q: What was your path to javelin?
JG: We didn’t have javelin in high school track and field, but I did it in clubs outside of school. As a freshman here I was a decathlete, but I ended up practicing way too many hours and it was harder to balance with my schoolwork, so I made the switch to javelin.

Q: What is your proudest moment as a Triton athlete?
JG: I had COVID last December, but I passed my quantum mechanics class with a B+. A few weeks later, I was still feeling the effects of COVID, but was able to throw a personal best in javelin. I was proud I was able to stick through it. Even with all this other stuff happening, I didn’t really waver.

Q: Why did you decide to major in chemistry?
JG: Taking AP classes in high school, I found out I exceled in chemistry. Once I realized I had the aptitude, I wanted to pursue it. Honestly, chemistry was easiest part of my studies here, but the math part was pretty crazy. That was the hardest I had ever studied before. It really helped me develop my study habits. I thought I was taking things seriously, but after those math classes, I realized what serious studying really was. Sometimes the point isn’t what you learn, but how you go about learning it that really helps you.

Q: What area of chemistry are you studying?
JG: I’m focusing on analytical chemistry with respect to natural products. In other words, if there is a product or a plant, I would be the one to characterize it. Right now, I work in a cannabis lab, which is pretty interesting. I help them develop methods for analyzing certain products that vendors have. So, someone grows the product, we analyze it and then it goes to the dispensary. It’s fun making suggestions about how things should go and how to get better results. It’s a small lab so I get to see the big picture of how a company operates.

Q: What do you like most about UC San Diego?
JG: No one’s really here to mess around. We all want to be the best we can. I’m pushed by my peers to succeed. I try as hard as I can in my classes and others do too. I have a lot of pride in graduating from this school.

Q: Have any faculty or staff been especially impactful while you were here?
JG: Burritt De Mill from Rady School of Management was someone I could talk to about my career plans, and he would give me advice and guidance. He respected my drive and validated how I wanted to bring chemistry and business together, not just doing one or the other.

Q: What are your plans after college?
JG: I’m currently interviewing for positions in the analytical chemistry field. After I work for a while, I’ll decide if I want to pursue a master’s in chemistry or an MBA or both. You’ve only got one life so you might as well try your hardest and see where you can go.

060122-gillis-art.jpgA self-portrait created by Josh. 

Q: You’re also an artist. Can you tell us about that?
JG: I took a studio art class in high school, and it seemed like something I was good at, so I kept doing it. I wanted to be better than the other students too, so I started working with pastels and pencils. I do lots of abstract things using vibrant stark lines and color. It’s something I want to work on for the rest of my life, keep pushing myself to be better.

Q: What was the last movie you watched?
JG: Ocean’s Eleven. I also watch a lot of anime. The last anime I watched was Demon Slayer.

Q: Where is your favorite place on campus?
JG: Outside of Price Center. All the food I like is there and usually I’ll see a friend or two. There’s always something happening—it’s a really dynamic environment. I feel more a part of the community there.