Born: Vietnam
Primarily active in: United States of America


Joan Pham, Safety Risk Leader

Dr. Loan (Joan) Pham was born in Vietnam in 1968; at age seven, she was separated from her family while escaping the communist takeover. Eight years later they were reconnected, and she came to the US just before high school with minimal knowledge of the English language. She was a brilliant and hardworking student, receiving a BS in Core Mathematics and an MS in Statistics at Purdue University, and a PhD in Industrial and System Engineering at Rutgers University — a rare combination of degrees that prepared her for the unique position that she held at Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company.

Pham began her career as a research assistant at the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) while a doctoral student. Upon graduation, she became a member of the Technical Staff at Lucent Technologies (formerly Bell Laboratories). Pham faced the daunting challenges of being a young Asian woman entering a workplace dominated by older men, but her success in overcoming the challenges of her early life and her educational accomplishments provided confidence to surmount these new obstacles. Through dedication and persistence, her knowledge and intellect became evident, and she became accepted and eventually recognized for her contributions in aviation safety risk management.

Pham joined Sikorsky in 2002, where she worked on every major development and production program. In 2021, she was named a Lockheed Martin Associate Technical Fellow, where she became a resource for other Lockheed Martin business units.

Pham was an industry leader in quantitative risk assessment, based on reliability theory and mathematical processes. She coauthored more than a dozen technical papers, presented many tutorials at conferences and symposia, and was an active member of both the VFS Systems Engineering and Safety Technical Committees. Pham served as a past Forum session chair and was the current Deputy Chair of the VFS Systems Engineering Technical Committee.

She served as a patient and thoughtful long-term mentor to many individuals who demonstrated interest in her quantitative risk assessment processes and on an ad-hoc basis to personnel at the FAA and other organizations.

Pham received many awards, including the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers Professional Achievement Award in 2022, and she was scheduled to receive the Scientific Achievement Award from the International System Safety Society on Aug. 28. Mike Cerneck, Sikorsky’s Director of Aviation & Product Safety, accepted the award on her behalf, and the award plaque was given to her husband, Tinh, at her funeral service.

Pham and her work will be remembered throughout the fields of system safety and aviation safety. As one colleague said, “the world is a better place because of Joan.”

Dr. Loan (Joan) Pham, a risk assessment senior staff member at Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company, passed away unexpectedly on Aug.16, 2023.

Society Update: Vertiflite, November/December 2023