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 sort 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 traditional selection: 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 get pleasure from 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 that means to the numbers we have been studying in arithmetic,” and in a while, his main in mechanical engineering at Yale College agreed with him.
“I undoubtedly caught with it,” West says. “I preferred 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 school, postdocs, and graduate college students to arrange program members for graduate examine.
For West, MSRP was an schooling in what “precisely grad college was, particularly what it could be like at MIT.”
It was additionally, and most significantly, a supply of validation that West may succeed within the larger ranges of academia.
“It gave me the arrogance to use to prime grad colleges, to know that I may 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 neighborhood and made enduring friendships, he says. “It’s good to be in areas the place you get to see lots 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’ll be able to create this identical expertise for individuals after you,” he says.
His involvement as a frontrunner and mentor in MSRP is only one means West has sought to offer again. As an undergraduate, for instance, he served as president of his college’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.
“Perhaps it’s only a familial factor,” West says, “however being a Black American, my dad and mom raised me in a means that you just all the time keep in mind the place you come from, you keep in mind what your ancestors went by means of.”
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 harm.
“I’m making an attempt to grasp how people management and handle their motion from a mathematical standpoint,” he says. “If in case you have a means of quantifying the motion, then you may measure it higher and implement that to robotics, to make higher units to assist in rehabilitation.”
Throughout his first 12 months of graduate college, West was chosen because the Bernard (Ben) Gold Fellow. In 2022, he was chosen to be an MIT-Takeda fellow. The MIT-Takeda Program, a collaboration between MIT’s College of Engineering and Takeda Prescribed 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 control objects and instruments.
West says the Takeda Fellowship gave him time to concentrate on his analysis, the funding permitting him to forgo working as a educating assistant. Though he loves educating and hopes to safe a tenure-track place as a professor after incomes his PhD, he says the time dedication related to being a educating assistant is critical. Within the third 12 months of his PhD, West devoted about 20 hours every week to a educating place.
“Having lots of time to do analysis is nice,” he says. “Studying what you should find out about and doing the analysis will get you to the subsequent step.”
In truth, the kind of analysis that West conducts is very time-intensive. That is at the very least partly as a result of human motor management includes a lot automated, unconscious exercise that’s predictably obscure.
“How do individuals management these complicated, unconscious techniques? Understanding that could be a slow-going course of. Quite a lot of the findings construct on one another. You need to have a strong understanding of what’s identified, what’s a working speculation, what’s testable, what isn’t testable, and the best way to deliver the non-testable to testable,” West says, including, “We gained’t perceive how people management motion in my lifetime.”
To make progress, West says he has to fastidiously 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 know-how and business, the company selects 5 MIT-Accenture fellows annually.
“What they’re in search of is somebody whose analysis is translational, that may have impacts in business,” West says. “It’s promising that they’re within the fundamental, basic 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 fulfill with pals on the weekends, took up rugby as a graduate scholar, and has a long-distance relationship along with his fiancée, with a marriage date set for subsequent summer time.
Requested how he’ll counsel his future college students once they strategy difficult work, he has a predictably relaxed response.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for assist. There’s all the time going to be somebody who’s higher at one thing than you might be, and that’s factor. If there weren’t, life can be somewhat boring.”