Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: A.S. Khan, Scientist and Researcher

Abdus Suttar Khan was an Asian American scientist and aerospace researcher who made significant contributions to several modes of transportation. Khan was born in 1941 in Khagatua village in modern-day Bangladesh (at the time part of British India). He graduated from the University of Dhaka in his homeland with a master’s degree in chemistry in 1962. (After the partition of British India in 1947, the area where Khan lived became a provincial state of Pakistan known as East Pakistan; the independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh was established in 1971.)

Khan remained at the University of Dhaka for a couple of years as a lecturer in the chemistry department before going to England to study at Oxford University. After graduating from Oxford University in 1968 with a Ph.D. in chemistry, Khan returned to the University of Dhaka to serve as an associate professor of chemistry. He remained in this position until 1973, when he left Bangladesh to live in the United States and work further in the field of materials engineering (alloys).

For more than three decades, Khan pursued extensive and pioneering research in the U.S. on behalf of NASA and United Technologies Corporation. He invented over 40 alloys for a wide range of both commercial and government applications. Several of these alloys have been used for jets and space shuttles to help make engines for each aircraft lighter and therefore able to fly faster. Khan also developed alloys for train engines that have increased the speed of locomotives. His alloys similarly accelerated the pace for gas turbines, which are internal combustion engines often used on such means of mobility as ships and helicopters.

Khan, who died in Florida in 2008 at the age of 67, received a number of awards throughout his career for his work on alloys.

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