James West, CST ’56, inducted into Temple’s Gallery of Success

James Edward West, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Johns Hopkins University and a pioneer in acoustics, is the College of Science and Technology’s 2016 inductee into the Temple University Gallery of Success. A collaboration of Temple’s Office of Alumni Relations and Career Center, the award honors alumni for their inspiring success stories.

Originally a pre-med student at another university, West earned his AS degree focusing on physics. “Temple was a real transition point for me,” remembers West. “It is where I began to do what I really loved.”

What began as a summer job at Bell Laboratories, turned into a 40-year career. During his tenure with Bell, West helped develop a highly sensitive, inexpensive microphone. In fact, nearly every device that amplifies sound—including baby monitors, hearing aids, video cameras and telephones—is possible because of West’s extensive contributions to the field of acoustics. He holds more than 250 patents for various microphones and techniques for making polymer electrets and transducers. Research is West’s passion. “I'm a lab rat,” West says. “Nature knows how to throw you a curveball, so you have to be ready for anything in research.”

Professor West's many awards and honors include the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor bestowed to an inventor in the U.S.; the Acoustical Society of America’s Gold Medal; the Industrial Research Institute’s Achievement Award; and 1995 “Inventor of the Year” from the state of New Jersey. He has been inducted into the Inventors  Hall of Fame and, along with Gerhard Sessler, received the Franklin Institute’s Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering. Professor West has received six honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Michigan State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University and Morgan State University.

Throughout his career, he has staunchly advocated for diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). His advice for students, particularly students of color and women who are underrepresented in STEM fields, is “science is harder, but do not back away from technology. Stay with the hard stuff now, and the rewards will be worth it later on.”

 

Greg Fornia, SMC ’92