Introducing A. Michael West: The MIT Student Researcher Making Waves in Health Care Robotics
A. Michael West, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at MIT, is making a name for himself in the field of health care robotics. With numerous scholarship and fellowship awards under his belt, West’s journey into robotics was somewhat serendipitous. Growing up in suburban California, he excelled in math and was faced with the classic career choices of becoming a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. Witnessing his mother’s demanding residency as a doctor and feeling that he didn’t have a strong enough passion for writing to pursue law, West ultimately chose engineering.
West’s interest in physics during high school solidified his love for the subject, as it brought meaning to the mathematical concepts he was learning. He went on to major in mechanical engineering at Yale University, where he delved deeper into the field.
Discovering His Path at MIT
As a rising senior at Yale, West had the opportunity to participate in the MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP). This program, designed to prepare undergraduates for graduate study, allowed West to experience what it would be like to pursue a PhD at MIT. MSRP not only provided West with valuable insights into the world of academia but also gave him the confidence to apply to top graduate schools.
During his time in MSRP, West found a community of like-minded individuals and forged lasting friendships. Being surrounded by minorities in science was a source of inspiration and motivation for him. Recognizing the impact of MSRP on his own life, West later served as an MRSP group leader, aiming to create the same experience for others.
Mentoring and Giving Back
West’s commitment to giving back extends beyond his involvement in MSRP. As an undergraduate, he served as president of his school’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter. At MIT, he took on leadership roles in organizations such as the Black Graduate Student Association and the Academy of Courageous Minority Engineers. West’s upbringing and the importance his parents placed on remembering his roots have shaped his desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
Researching Movement Control for Rehabilitation
In his current research, West is collaborating with Professor Neville Hogan in the field of biomechanics and human rehabilitation. He aims to understand how humans control movement from a mathematical standpoint. By quantifying movement, West hopes to develop better robotics devices to aid in rehabilitation for individuals with orthopedic or neurological injuries.
The MIT-Takeda Fellowship and Time for Research
In recognition of his potential, West was selected as an MIT-Takeda fellow. This fellowship, a collaboration between MIT’s School of Engineering and Takeda Pharmaceuticals Company, focuses on applying artificial intelligence to improve human health. Through the fellowship, West has been able to dedicate more time to his research, allowing him to forgo teaching assistant duties. West’s ultimate goal is to become a professor and continue making advancements in the field of robotics.
West acknowledges that his research is time-intensive due to the complexity of human motor control. Progress in understanding this field requires careful step-by-step exploration, building upon previous findings and hypotheses.
Preparing for the Future: The MIT and Accenture Convergence Initiative
In September, West will begin a fellowship with the MIT and Accenture Convergence Initiative for Industry and Technology. This fellowship aims to foster collaboration between academia and industry, and West hopes to contribute his translational research to industry applications.
Outside of Robotics: A Relaxed Approach to Life
Despite his impressive accomplishments, West remains down-to-earth and leads a balanced lifestyle. He enjoys spending time with friends, playing rugby, and maintaining a long-distance relationship with his fiancée. When asked about his advice to future students facing challenging work, West encourages them not to be afraid to ask for help and embrace the expertise of others.