A. Michael West, an accomplished MIT student researcher in health care robotics, didn’t intentionally choose his path, but instead fell into it. Growing up in suburban California, West had the classic choices of being a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. After witnessing his mother’s grueling residency as a doctor and realizing he didn’t enjoy reading and writing enough to be a lawyer, he settled on engineering.
West found a love for physics in high school as it gave meaning to the numbers he learned in mathematics. This passion for engineering continued during his major in mechanical engineering at Yale University. As a rising senior at Yale, West participated in the MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP), which gave him an understanding of what graduate school would be like at MIT and provided validation that he could succeed in academia.
In addition to the educational benefits, MSRP introduced West to a community of like-minded individuals and allowed him to make enduring friendships. Inspired by his own experience with MSRP, West became an MRSP group leader at MIT to create a similar experience for others.
West has consistently sought to give back throughout his academic career. He served as the president of his school’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter during his undergraduate years and held various leadership positions within minority-focused organizations at MIT.
Currently, West conducts research with Neville Hogan in the Eric P. and Evelyn E. Newton Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation. His research aims to understand how humans control and manage their movement from a mathematical standpoint to develop better devices for rehabilitation.
In 2022, West became an MIT-Takeda Fellow, focusing on the application of artificial intelligence to benefit human health. The fellowship provided him with the time and funding to dedicate to his research without the commitments of being a teaching assistant. While he loves teaching, West hopes to secure a tenure-track position as a professor after earning his PhD.
West acknowledges that his research is time-intensive, especially in understanding the complex and subconscious systems of human motor control. He takes a step-by-step approach to make progress and build upon existing findings.
Starting in September, West will embark on a fellowship with the MIT and Accenture Convergence Initiative for Industry and Technology. This fellowship aims to facilitate interaction between technology and industry, and West’s translational research fits the criteria.
While West is achieving prestigious fellowships and advancing human-robot interactions in health care, he remains laid-back. He values his personal relationships, participates in extracurricular activities such as rugby, and plans his upcoming wedding. With a relaxed mindset, West encourages future students to not be afraid to ask for help and embrace the expertise of others.