Black History Month: An Interview with James West, FNAI


As we continue in celebrating Black History Month, James West, FNAI of NAI Member Institution The Johns Hopkins University, shares with us what inspired him to become an inventor, the importance of diversity in innovation, and reasons to consider fostering diverse perspectives through mentorship.

Q. What inspired you to become an inventor?
A. My mother, Matilda, who was a member of the Hidden Figures group of Black mathematicians, stressed the use of my mind to help solve problems

Q. What is the importance of having diverse and unique perspectives in the innovation and invention ecosystem?
A. Diversity is an important ingredient for technical advancement because our thought process encompasses our total experience. Initially, I had a problem figuring out why my thought process differed from my colleagues who were white males with the same technical education and experiences.

Q. What suggestions do you have on how mentorship could help support attracting, engaging, and retaining diverse perspectives and individuals in the innovation and invention ecosystem?
A. My experience as both a mentor and mentee makes a strong point for others to consider sharing their experiences with both women and URM’s. Rewards are obvious and pride in knowing you have influenced some one else.

Read about Dr. West’s work here: