Chemistry professor to appear TV show Jeopardy!

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Popular chemistry professor and alum Hung V Pham (PhD ’15 Houk group) appears on the TV quiz show Jeopardy, wins second place!.

Dr. Hung V. Pham, an Assistant Adjunct Professor of organic chemistry in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, won second place in the episode that aired on February 14, 2022. The episode was filmed during last quarter’s Finals season. 

“The whole


experience, from beginning to end, was truly amazing but nothing beats the overwhelmingly supportive people who reached out to tell me that they were tuning in: friends and family, mentors and students, past and present…it was unforgettable!” Pham said. 
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Professor Hung Pham during his appearance on Jeopardy! and with host Ken Jennings.

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Pham (right) with the other contestants during the filming.

Jeopardy! has been one of Pham’s favorite TV shows since he was a child. “My sister always urged me to try out for trivia shows because, not only was I always enthused about watching them, I actually had a knack of doing well (from the comfort of my own home),” Pham explained. After years of taking the online


quiz, Pham was fortunate enough to be called in after an extensive vetting process.

Pham says the experience was amazing. “After the online quiz, I was invited in for another quiz (for me it was on Zoom), and then we played a mock game where they get to see our personalities come to life. After that’s done, we’re put into a pool of possible contestants and just move on with our lives, forgetting about our tryout until, if we’re lucky, we’re called in sometime in the next 18 months to come in and play! The whole process of taping the show was awesome, too, but I can’t get into the details of that unfortunately, especially before my show airs.” 

About Professor Hung V. Pham

Professor Hung V. Pham graduated magna cum laude from UC Irvine (UCI) in 2008, with a B.S. in chemistry and a B.S. in mathematics. He worked as physical science tutor advisor at UCI’s Learning and Academic Resource Center (LARC) for two years before being accepted to the UCLA chemistry doctoral program. Under the direction of Professor Ken Houk, Pham conducted research in the field of computational organic chemistry, focusing mainly on cycloadditions of allenes and arenes but also dabbling in metathesis reactions, host-guest chemistry, and synthetic mechanistic studies in collaboration with Professor Chris Vanderwal at UCI. He received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 2015.

Soon after receiving his Ph.D., Pham began his teaching career as an adjunct professor at Santa Monica College, focusing on organic and general chemistry classes. He returned to UCLA in 2016 as a organic chemistry lecturer and was promoted to Assistant Adjunct Professor in 2019. Pham teaches lower division organic chemistry lecture classes, 14C, 14C, 30A, 30B, and 30C. 

In 2017, Pham and his friends started an escape room in Irvine, called “UNLOCKED”. According to the UNLOCKED website, an escape room is “a puzzle solving and teamwork-based activity in which your team is placed in a room and given an overarching mission to complete within 60 minutes.”  Pham’s escape room was featured in the Daily Bruin in November 2018.

In 2019,  Pham was featured in a short video, as part of the Daily Bruin‘s “Faces of UCLA” video series. In the video, Pham reflected on growing up in Orange County as a first-generation Vietnamese American, his tight-knit community, and the inspiration he draws from his immigrant parents. Pham’s father came to the U.S. speaking no English yet he worked his way up from janitor to product design engineer for an engineering firm, without ever receiving a formal degree. 

Photos courtesy of Professor Hung V. Pham. Article by Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,