Inspiring journey leads Dr. Pham to accolades

  • Published
  • By Jeanne Dailey
  • Air Force Research Laboratory

The Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers recently honored Dr. Khanh Pham, a senior aerospace engineer in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate, with the Leadership Award in the SASE Engineer/Scientist of the Year (Government category).

Dr. Khanh Pham received the award during the 2018 Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers Awards Banquet Oct. 5 in Chicago.

This award recognizes Pham’s technical accomplishment and advancements in the fields of science, engineering, and technology and his exemplary leadership in the community.

“This award is a symbolic reminder that in order to succeed in life, each of us ought to take on the ever endurance challenge – overcoming personal limitations, collaborating with others across boundaries, and giving back to the communities,” Pham said.

Pham joined AFRL in 2004 and over a 14-year period has been involved in multi-faceted technical activities in support of the nation’s defense, particularly in the fields of space control, space situational awareness, and military satellite communication applications.

During his prolific AFRL career, Pham has forged major research initiatives with the DoD, academia, and industry partnerships across the DoD space enterprise. He is highly involved and recognized in the broader research community and several professional societies recently bestowed upon him elevated status as a Fellow of the Society of Photo-Optical and Instrumentation Engineers, an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Pham was born in South Vietnam where his parents served in the U.S.-backed South Vietnam government during the Vietnam War and became prisoners of war from 1975 to 1984. Under the Special Release Re-education Center Detainee Resettlement Program (a.k.a. Humanitarian Operation), he and his family and came to the U.S. in the early 1990s. At the time, he was a second-year college student in the field of engineering from Saigon, who barely spoke English.

Pham worked hard to learn his new country’s language and though an older student, attended high school at Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Neb., graduating three years after arriving in the U.S. While in high school, he worked as a custodian for two hours before school started and in the evenings he attended a community college where he earned an associate’s degree in electronic systems technology.

In the late 1990s, Pham went on to earn bachelor and master’s science degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska, and in 2004 he received a Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering from University of Notre Dame under the support of 4-year Arthur Schmidt Presidential Fellowship.

Pham has published 29 journal articles, 26 chapters in books, and 220-plus conference proceedings. In addition, he is the sole author of two published seminal research monographs, and an inventor of 10 U.S. patents with 10 U.S. patent disclosures under way. More recently, he received the 2018 Small Business Technology Council Champion of Small Business Commercialization Award.

“My career with the AFRL has been very productive and rewarding,” said Pham. “AFRL gives me autonomy to define how I can best contribute to the Air Force mission as well as providing intellectual stimulations and the opportunity to be on the forefront of space research and development.”