Current Members

Wolfgang Fink, Ph.D. (Director, Associate Professor, Keonjian Endowed Chair)

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Fink is the inaugural Edward & Maria Keonjian Endowed Chair of Microelectronics with joint appointments in the Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Systems & Industrial Engineering, Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering, and Ophthalmology & Vision Science at the University of Arizona (UArizona). Pursuing a trans-disciplinary systems engineering approach in “smart” cyber-physical service systems in general, and human/brain-machine interfaces, autonomous/reasoning systems, and evolutionary optimization in particular, he has focused his research on biomedical engineering for healthcare, self-adapting wearable sensors, smart platforms for mobile- and tele-health, artificial vision prostheses, autonomous robotic space exploration, cognitive/reasoning systems, and computer-optimized design. Dr. Fink pursues an opportunistic approach from conceptualization, subsequent development, to eventual generation of publications, intellectual property (IP), and commercialization. As a result, he has over 257 publications (including journal, book, and conference contributions), 6 NASA Patent Awards, as well as 23 US and foreign patents awarded to date (numerous additional patents pending) in the areas of autonomous robotic systems, biomedical cyber-physical devices, neural stimulation, MEMS fabrication, data fusion and analysis, and multi-dimensional optimization. He has co-founded two startup companies in the ophthalmic sector.

Trained as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Fink has actively sought out collaboration with experts in medical technology and healthcare, planetary science, aerospace, and systems design throughout his career. This is further emphasized by his affiliations with three major universities and one Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC): UArizona (2009-present), California Institute of Technology (1998-2016), NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2001-2009), and University of Southern California (2001-2014), as well as his cross-disciplinary appointments in the College of Engineering at the UArizona. He has been an integral part of large-scale, multi-institutional, collaborative and multi-disciplinary research enterprises: The DOE-funded Artificial Retina Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA, $63 million), the NSF-funded Biomimetic MicroElectronic Systems Engineering Research Center ($37 million), and the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design (CECAD, $2.25 million) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Moreover, in recognition of his research accomplishments, Dr. Fink is a SPIE Fellow, PHM Fellow, AIMBE Fellow, the 2015 da Vinci Fellow and 2017 ACABI Fellow of the UArizona, and Senior Member IEEE. He has taken on numerous leadership roles in professional societies (e.g., SPIE, IEEE, PHM Society), and serves as an Editorial Board Member of two international journals. As an educator, he has created two courses that provide a solid foundation for the next generation of scientists/engineers. His commitment to STEM education in general, and underrepresented minorities in particular, has been recognized by the University Excellence in STEM Diversity Award in 2016, which is further corroborated by his role as a Senator of the Faculty Senate. Moreover, he is a member of the Committee of Eleven of the University of Arizona. Dr. Fink maintains an active, public outreach program to communicate science and engineering concepts as well as research accomplishments to the general public and funding agencies.

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 is a commercially rated helicopter pilot.

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
LinkedIn & Wikipedia

Mark Tarbell, M.S. (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 developed a novel customizable satellite telemetry generator/decommutator for JPL's Jason Telemetry Command & Control Subsystem (JTCCS) project, which supports real-time telecommanding of earth-orbiting satellites from wireless handheld smart devices. 

  • 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. 

  • He is also co-author, technical editor, and illustrator of the groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence volume, The Autonomous System: A Foundational Synthesis of the Sciences of the Mind, with 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 3D digital elevation model of the Earth's surface. He also holds the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Award, the NASA Certificate of Recognition for Creative Development of Technical Innovation award for field-deployable integrated air-ground multi-agent autonomous remote planetary surface exploration, and the NASA Space Act Award for the development of significant scientific/technical contributions to aeronautical and space science. He is also the holder of various NASA TechBrief awards, and has been awarded numerous patents for his work in these and other fields. 

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