Current Members

Wolfgang Fink, PhD (Director and Associate Professor)

Associate Professor Dr. Wolfgang Fink is the inaugural Edward & Maria Keonjian Endowed Chair in Microelectronics with joint appointments in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Systems and Industrial Engineering, and Ophthalmology and Vision Science at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is a Visiting Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology, and holds concurrent appointments as Visiting Research Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Neurological Surgery at the University of Southern California. Dr. Fink is the founder and director of the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory at Caltech and at the University of Arizona. He was a Senior Researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 2000 till 2009. He obtained a B.S. and M.S. degree in Physics and Physical Chemistry from the University of Göttingen, Germany, and a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the University of Tübingen, Germany in 1997. Dr. Fink is an AIMBE Fellow and holds a Commercial Pilot's License for Rotorcraft (i.e., helicopters).

Dr. Fink’s interest in human-machine interfaces, autonomous/reasoning systems, and evolutionary optimization has focused his research programs on artificial vision, autonomous robotic space exploration, biomedical sensor/system development, cognitive/reasoning systems, and computer-optimized design.

In 2004 Dr. Fink received the NASA Space Flight Awareness (SFA) Launch Honoree Award for his work in support of NASA’s human spaceflight program. In 2005 he was the co-recipient of the Silver “Humie” Award for demonstrating Human Competitive Performance from the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO). In 2006 he won 1st place in the International “Huygens Probe” Optimization Competition, held at the IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence (WCCI) in Vancouver, Canada. Throughout his tenure at JPL and Caltech he received 6 NASA Patent Awards. In July 2009, Dr. Fink was named co-recipient of the R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 Award and subsequently in November 2009 he was also named co-recipient of the R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 Editors’ Choice Award (the highest of the R&D 100 Awards in 2009), both for the DOE-funded Artificial Retina Project. Furthermore, in November 2009 he received the NASA Board Award for his pioneering work on a novel autonomous space exploration paradigm. Dr. Fink has over 169 publications (including journal, book, and conference contributions) as well as 13 patents awarded to date in the areas of autonomous systems, biomedical devices, MEMS fabrication, and multi-dimensional optimization.

Office: Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory

1230 E. Speedway Blvd.
, Room 521, Bldg. 104
P.O. Box 210104

Tucson, AZ 85721

Tel: +1-520-621-8734
Fax: +1-520-621-8076
Personal webpage:

Erich Schmid, PhD (Professor emeritus)

Professor emeritus Dr. Erich Schmid is a theoretical physicist and computational physicist. He is the founder of ZDV, the University Computing Center of Tübingen, Germany. Together with I. Slaus he is the founder of the European Few-Body Physics Research Committee. Dr. Schmid is known by the text books “The Quantum Mechanical Three-Body Problem” and  “Theoretical Physics on the Personal Computer” with editions in English, German, Russian, and Japanese.

Erich Schmid, born 1931 in Munich, studied physics at the University of Munich and obtained his M.S. degree in experimental physics and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics under Walther Gerlach. After two post-doctoral years in Munich he became research associate at Florida State University and senior research physicist at the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics in Munich under Werner Heisenberg. In 1965 he became full professor of theoretical atomic and nuclear physics at the University of Tübingen, Germany.

Dr. Schmid’s research started with experimental and theoretical molecular physics in Munich and changed to computational nuclear physics at Florida State University, Tallahassee. For his theoretical work he started to use computers as early as 1956. He designed mathematical models suited for computer applications (a model for extracting molecular information from Raman spectra, a Monte Carlo model for nuclear bound state calculations, the orthogonalized resonating group model for nuclear scattering calculations, the “fish-bone” model). His work includes pure mathematics (convergence-proof of the orthogonalized resonating group model) and computer applications. In 1988 he opened up a second line of research, namely computer applications in medicine, especially in ophthalmology. One of his first collaborators in this second field has been Dr. Wolfgang Fink. Dr. Schmid is first author of the above-mentioned books and of numerous refereed papers and conference contributions.

Mark Tarbell, MS (Senior Research Scientist)

Mark A. Tarbell is a Senior Research Scientist at University of Arizona's Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory and a Senior Design Engineer and Visiting Scientist at Caltech with more than 30 years of large-scale computer architecture and biomedical systems analysis, design, and development. He designed and implemented the SRTM Space Shuttle Radar Topography Mission ground data processor control infrastructure for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which processed an unprecedented number of terabytes of spatial in-flight data into ultra-high resolution 3D digital topography of the entire globe. He has designed and implemented real-time automation systems for deep space radio dish antennae, large-scale (multi-terabyte) data archival and retrieval systems, and distributed client/server command and control processing infrastructures for the U.S. military. 


  • Recently, for the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory at Caltech, he co-designed, implemented, and demonstrated a remote telecommanding control system for a testbed for autonomous planetary surface exploration. 

  • He also co-developed a biomedical Artificial Vision Support System, which uses various vision processing algorithms to interface to blind patients' implanted retinal microelectrode array in real time. 

  • He was involved with JPL's Jason Telemetry Command & Control Subsystem (JTCCS) project, which supports real-time telecommanding of earth-orbiting satellites from wireless handheld iDevices. 

  • He is the technical editor and illustrator of the groundbreaking IEEE Computer Society 60th Anniversary special volume, The Cognitive Dynamics of Computer Science by S.M. de Gyurky. 

  • Mark Tarbell is the recipient of NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Group Achievement Awards for algorithm development, data product processing and validation for the design, development, and operation of the world's first fixed-baseline radar interferometer, flown on STS-99, and for the data processing that produced a unique digital elevation model of the Earth. He also holds the NIMA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Award, and the NASA Certificate of Recognition for Creative Development of Technical Innovation for field-deployable integrated air-ground multi-agent autonomous remote planetary surface exploration. He holds various NASA TechBrief Awards and patents. 

  • He is an active member of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.