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Diversity Oriented Organization Recognizes AFRL Scientist

Dr. Khanh Pham (courtesy photo)

Dr. Khanh Pham (courtesy photo)


Air Force Research Laboratory scientist Khanh Pham, Ph.D., will be recognized for the second time by the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) for his contributions to both Air Force research and the science/engineering community. Pham will be awarded the 2019 Professional Achievement Award to accompany his 2018 Engineer/Scientist of the Year in the Government Category.

Pham became an Aerospace Engineer for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland in October 2004. He worked in the Advanced Spacecraft Components and Technologies Branch from 2004 to 2016. Since then, he has been part of the Geospace Communications & Navigation Branch.

“My endeavors with the AFRL and its Space Vehicles Directorate have included serving as an in-house researcher, technical lead, contracting officer technical representative, research advisor, mentor and adjunct research professor for basic research in command, control and communications autonomy,” said Pham.
Pham has an extensive list of accolades within aerospace engineering that range from statistical optimal control theory to military communications. He is the inventor of 13 U.S. patents with 10 U.S. patent disclosures under way. He has also been the recipient of the Small Business Technology Council Champion of Small Business Commercialization Award.

Pham’s achievements were not attained without adversity. His parents served in the US-backed South Vietnam government during the Vietnam War. They were war prisoners from 1975 to 1984. It was under the Special Release Reeducation Center Detainee Resettlement Program (Humanitarian Operation), that he and his family entered the United States in 1990.

“[When entering the US] I was a second year student from Ho Chi Minh University in the field of electrical engineering from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam,” Pham said. “I barely knew any English. Despite my circumstances, I had to work hard enough to learn the language spoken in my new home. I graduated from Lincoln High School in Lincoln, Nebraska three years later.”

Pham earned his first college degree in Applied Sciences in Electronic Systems Technology from Southeast Community College in 1994, while simultaneously attending Lincoln High School.

He holds a Bachelor and Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Nebraska; as well as, a Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

Among the mission objectives of the SASE, is the celebration of diversity on campuses and in the workplace. The society emphasizes the importance of recognizing individuals that positively impact their community.

Pham has taken on roles in mentorship organizations in order to cultivate those pursuing a future within the science and engineering fields. Pham is active in the Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship and the AFRL Scholars program. He also takes part in evaluation committees for the National Science Foundation, the National Defense Science fellowship, and the Engineering Graduate fellowship.

“Through my work in mentoring I have the opportunity to show others who may be considering the field to expand their horizons,” Pham said. “I’m in a unique position to spread the word and potentially inspire others like me to enter a similar career path.”

The value of organizations that highlight diversity is not lost on Pham. He says that recognizing those who often lack representation is an asset to the growth and productivity in a work space.

“It’s important to acknowledge the contributions of minorities and bring attention to the levels of diversity within the science and engineering fields,” Pham said. “There is a need for multiple perspectives, and often that can be supplied by those of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Having ethnic diversity within the lab offers the capability to address the Air Force needs from those with varying world views.”

Pham will be presented the award on October 10 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. When discussing his successes, Pham said that he credits his family, colleagues, and mentors who have supported him throughout his journey. He is honored to be recognized by an organization that works to highlight diversity in the science and engineering fields.

“The SASE does much to highlight the achievements of minorities and goes a long way to remind those students that they are appreciated and that their contributions to the field are important,” Pham said.