When he isn’t investigating human motor management, the graduate pupil offers again by volunteering with applications that helped him develop as a researcher within the subject of human-robot interactions in healthcare.
An completed MIT pupil researcher in well being care robotics with many scholarship and fellowship awards, A. Michael West is nonchalant about how he selected his path.
“I type 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 afterward, his main in mechanical engineering at Yale College agreed with him.
“I positively caught with it,” West says. “I appreciated what I used to be studying.”
As a rising senior at Yale, West was chosen to take part within the MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP). This system identifies gifted undergraduates to spend a summer season on MIT’s campus, conducting analysis with the mentorship of MIT school, postdocs, and graduate college students to arrange program contributors 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 might succeed within the greater ranges of academia.
“It gave me the arrogance to use to high 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 method 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 quite a lot 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 identical expertise for folks after you,” he says.
His involvement as a pacesetter and mentor in MSRP is only one means West has sought to provide 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.
“Possibly it’s only a familial factor,” West says, “however being a Black American, my dad and mom raised me in a means that you simply 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 geared toward serving to others, particularly those that have suffered orthopedic or neurological damage.
“I’m making an attempt to grasp how people management and handle their motion from a mathematical standpoint,” he says. “When you’ve got a means of quantifying the motion, then you’ll be able to 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 Prescribed drugs Firm, primarily promotes the applying of artificial intelligence to profit human well being. As a Takeda Fellow, West has studied the flexibility of the human hand to control objects and instruments.
West says the Takeda Fellowship gave him time to deal with 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 per week to a educating place.
“Having quite a lot of time to do analysis is nice,” he says. “Studying what you’ll want to study 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 not less than partly as a result of human motor management entails a lot automated, unconscious exercise that’s predictably obscure.
“How do folks management these complicated, unconscious programs? Understanding that may be a slow-going course of. Lots 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 just isn’t testable, and the right way to convey 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 Industry and Technology. Hoping to encourage and facilitate interplay between know-how and business, the company selects 5 MIT-Accenture fellows every year.
“What they’re searching for is somebody whose analysis is translational, that may have impacts in business,” West says. “It’s promising that they’re within the primary, basic analysis I’m doing. I haven’t labored on the translational facet 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 pals on the weekends, took up rugby as a graduate pupil, and has a long-distance relationship together with his fiancée, with a marriage date set for subsequent summer season.
Requested how he’ll counsel his future college students after they method 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’re, and that’s factor. If there weren’t, life could be just a little boring.”
Written by Michaela Jarvis