An achieved MIT scholar researcher in well being care robotics, with many scholarship and fellowship awards to his title, A. Michael West is nonchalant about how he selected his path.
“I form of fell into it,” the mechanical engineering PhD candidate says, including that rising up in suburban California, he was social, athletic — and good at math. “I had the basic alternative: You is usually a physician, a lawyer, or an engineer.”
Having witnessed his mom’s grueling residency when she was coaching to be a health care provider, and feeling like he didn’t take pleasure in studying and writing sufficient to be a lawyer, “That left engineer,” he says.
Fortunately, he loved physics in highschool as a result of, he says, “it gave which means to the numbers we have been studying in arithmetic,” and afterward, his main in mechanical engineering at Yale College agreed with him.
“I positively caught with it,” West says. “I favored what I used to be studying.”
As a rising senior at Yale, West was chosen to take part within the MIT Summer time Analysis Program (MSRP). This system identifies proficient undergraduates to spend a summer time on MIT’s campus, conducting analysis with the mentorship of MIT college, postdocs, and graduate college students to arrange program contributors for graduate research.
For West, MSRP was an training in what “precisely grad faculty was, particularly what it could be like at MIT.”
It was additionally, and most significantly, a supply of validation that West might succeed within the greater ranges of academia.
“It gave me the arrogance to use to prime grad colleges, to know that I might truly contribute right here and achieve success,” West says. “It very a lot gave me the arrogance to stroll right into a room and strategy individuals who clearly know far more than I do about sure subjects.”
With MSRP, West additionally discovered a group and made enduring friendships, he says. “It’s good to be in areas the place you get to see loads of minorities in science, which MSRP was,” he says.
Having benefited from the MSRP expertise, West gave again as soon as he enrolled at MIT by working as an MRSP group chief for 2 summers. “You possibly can create this similar expertise for individuals after you,” he says.
His involvement as a pacesetter and mentor in MSRP is only one method West has sought to present again. As an undergraduate, for instance, he served as president of his faculty’s Nationwide Society of Black Engineers chapter, and at MIT, he has served as treasurer for the Black Graduate Scholar Affiliation and the Academy of Brave Minority Engineers.
“Possibly it’s only a familial factor,” West says, “however being a Black American, my mother and father raised me in a method that you simply at all times keep in mind the place you come from, you keep in mind what your ancestors went by.”
West’s present analysis — with Neville Hogan, the Solar Jae Professor in Mechanical Engineering, within the Eric P. and Evelyn E. Newton Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation — can also be aimed toward serving to others, particularly those that have suffered orthopedic or neurological damage.
“I’m making an attempt to know how people management and handle their motion from a mathematical standpoint,” he says. “You probably have a method of quantifying the motion, then you may measure it higher and implement that to robotics, to make higher gadgets to assist in rehabilitation.”
In 2022, West was chosen to be an MIT-Takeda fellow. The MIT-Takeda Program, a collaboration between MIT’s Faculty of Engineering and Takeda Prescription drugs Firm, primarily promotes the applying of synthetic intelligence to profit human well being. As a Takeda Fellow, West has studied the power of the human hand to govern objects and instruments.
West says the Takeda Fellowship gave him time to give attention to his analysis, the funding permitting him to forgo working as a instructing assistant. Though he loves instructing and hopes to safe a tenure-track place as a professor after incomes his PhD, he says the time dedication related to being a instructing assistant is important. Within the third 12 months of his PhD, West devoted about 20 hours every week to a instructing place.
“Having loads of time to do analysis is nice,” he says. “Studying what you might want to study and doing the analysis will get you to the subsequent step.”
In reality, the kind of analysis that West conducts is very time-intensive. That is a minimum of partly as a result of human motor management includes a lot computerized, unconscious exercise that’s predictably obscure.
“How do individuals management these complicated, unconscious techniques? Understanding that may be a slow-going course of. A number of the findings construct on one another. You must have a strong understanding of what’s recognized, what’s a working speculation, what’s testable, what shouldn’t be testable, and learn how to carry the non-testable to testable,” West says, including, “We received’t perceive how people management motion in my lifetime.”
To make progress, West says he has to rigorously proceed one step at a time.
“What are the small questions I can ask? What are the questions which have already been requested, and the way can we construct upon these? That’s when the duty turns into much less daunting,” he says.
In September, West will start a fellowship with the MIT and Accenture Convergence Initiative for Trade and Expertise. Hoping to encourage and facilitate interplay between expertise and trade, the company selects 5 MIT-Accenture fellows every year.
“What they’re in search of is somebody whose analysis is translational, that may have impacts in trade,” West says. “It’s promising that they’re within the fundamental, elementary analysis I’m doing. I haven’t labored on the translational aspect but. It’s one thing I’d prefer to get into after commencement.”
Whereas incomes prestigious fellowships and advancing human-robot interactions in well being care, West continues to be very a lot the laid-back man who “fell into” engineering. He finds time to satisfy with associates on the weekends, took up rugby as a graduate scholar, and has a long-distance relationship together with his fiancée, with a marriage date set for subsequent summer time.
Requested how he’ll counsel his future college students after they strategy difficult work, he has a predictably relaxed response.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for assist. There’s at all times going to be somebody who’s higher at one thing than you’re, and that’s an excellent factor. If there weren’t, life can be a bit of boring.”