A. Michael West Jr. is pursuing his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He’s currently researching the use of robots for expediting human rehabilitation during physical therapy and improving human-robot physical interaction. After receiving his doctorate, he hopes to continue research as a tenured professor with the hopes of inspiring other African American students to pursue STEM-related fields.
How did you become interested in robotics? From a very early age, I expressed interest in both the medical and engineering fields, as I grew up with a mother who is a physician and a father who is an engineer. Throughout my academic career, I have searched for opportunities to combine these interests. In the summer before my senior year of undergrad, I was introduced to this field by interning at MIT through the MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP).
Who are your mentors? It was through the MIT Summer Research Program where I met most of my colleagues in my current field. Namely, those were James Hermus, a second-year graduate student, Meghan Huber, a Post-Doc, and Neville Hogan the PI of the Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation. Additionally, at my undergraduate university, professors Joseph Zinter and Madhusudan Venkadesan helped me on my path to graduate school.
What words of wisdom would you give to students in robotics currently? If you have an interest, explore it! Robotics is a vastly-growing field with plenty of online resources just a Google search away. This field is always in need of new, eager minds and that can be you!