Microphone innovator James West to speak

Jan. 30, 2008, 11:41 p.m.

James West, co-inventor of the modern-day microphone, will give the keynote address at a leadership conference sponsored by the Princeton chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, in the Friend Center Auditorium. His talk is titled "Where Credit Is Due: The Black and Hispanic Heritage in Technology."

West, who holds more than 250 patents, has been awarded a National Medal of Technology and inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 1962, he and colleague Gerhard Sessler at Bell Laboratories patented the electret microphone -- today, some 90 percent of microphones are built using the principles they developed.

While at Bell Labs in the early 1970s, West and other African American scientists created graduate fellowship programs and undergraduate summer research programs for underrepresented minorities. These programs had far-reaching influence and underwrote the Ph.D. educations of nearly 200 minority scientists and engineers in the United States.

West's talk is part of a daylong New Jersey Spring Zone Leadership conference hosted by Princeton. Other schools participating in the conference are Rutgers University, the Stevens Institute of Technology, the College of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Nii Attoh-Okine of the University of Delaware, a visiting professor in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton this year, also will be a keynote speaker. Other highlights include a poster session, a career fair, alumni networking opportunities and a presentation on applying to graduate school by Stephen Friedfeld, associate dean of graduate affairs at the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

West's talk, which will be introduced by Dean of Engineering H. Vincent Poor, is open to the public. The rest of the conference is free to registered members of NSBE and is open to graduate students, undergraduates and high school students in the New Jersey area.

"We want to offer tools and resources to college students and to expose them to the wide range of career opportunities in engineering," said senior Rochelle Murray, past president of the Princeton chapter of NSBE. "We also want to reach out to high schoolers so that they can talk to college students and understand what engineering is all about."

For more information on registering for the conference, which runs from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., contact Kent Cameron at (718) 219-3735.