Current Members

Wolfgang Fink, Ph.D., FNAI, FARVO, FSPIE, FPHMS, FAIMBE, UA FdaVinci, UA FACABI, Senior IEEE (Director, Associate Professor, inaugural 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 265 publications (including journal, book, and conference contributions), 6 NASA Patent Awards and 5 Techbrief Awards, as well as 29 U.S. 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, $4 million) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Moreover, in recognition of his research accomplishments, Dr. Fink is a NAI Fellow, ARVO Fellow, SPIE Fellow, PHMS Fellow, AIMBE Fellow, the 2015 da Vinci Fellow and 2017 ACABI Fellow of the UArizona, a Senior Member IEEE, and the current Vice President of the Prognostics and Health Management (PHM) Society. He has taken on numerous leadership roles in professional societies (e.g., SPIE, IEEE, ARVO, PHM Society), and serves as an Editorial Board Member of the International Journal of Prognostics and Health Management. 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 and women in STEM 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 the current Chair of the Committee of Eleven as well as a Member of the Research Policy Committee 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. Most recently, he was named the recipient of the 2023 inaugural University Faculty Service Award - one of the highest honors at the UArizona - “This award recognizes University of Arizona faculty who have made exceptional contributions to our service mission, within their department or college, across campus, or in their scholarly community around the world,” and, specifically for "astonishing commitment to STEM education by expanding the involvement of underrepresented groups and women in STEM fields.”

In 2002 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 “Humies” 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 and 5 Techbrief 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 Space Act Board Award for his pioneering work on a novel autonomous space exploration paradigm: Tier-Scalable Reconnaissance (TSR). In August 2021, Dr. Fink was named co-winner of the DOE/NREL-sponsored $200,000 E-ROBOT Prize (Phase 1), an American-Made Challenge, for devising a patent-pending robotic building envelope retrofit solution to reduce the energy footprint of the nation’s building infrastructure (causing 39% of total national energy usage), by improving the energy performance of existing buildings, thereby addressing the worldwide climate & energy crisis. Most recently, Dr. Fink was honored with the prestigious 2023 SPIE Aden and Marjorie Meinel Technology Achievement Award “for pioneering, sustained contributions to the development of transformational opto-medical examination and device technologies, with particular focus on visual prostheses for the blind, ophthalmology, and tele-ophthalmology.” Dr. Fink is a commercially rated helicopter pilot.

Office: Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory

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

Tucson, AZ 85721

LinkedIn & Wikipedia

Mark Tarbell, Senior Research Scientist

Mark A. Tarbell is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Arizona’s Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory (VAESRL), and a Senior Design Engineer and Visiting Scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California (Caltech).

As an internationally recognized expert in 21st-century approaches to Artificial Intelligence, Mr. Tarbell is co-author with A.I. visionary Szabolcs Michael de Gyurky of the groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence volume, "The Autonomous System: A Foundational Synthesis of the Sciences of the Mind", in addition to the highly acclaimed IEEE Computer Society 60th Anniversary special volume, "The Cognitive Dynamics of Computer Science."

Mr. Tarbell has more than 35 years of large-scale computer architecture, aerospace, and biomedical systems analysis, design, and development, specializing in innovative ophthalmic device design and implementation as well as in NASA-based spacecraft and robotics autonomic command and control systems design, engineering, software, and electronics.

  • Mr. Tarbell led the team that designed and implemented the Space Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) ground data processor control infrastructure for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which processed an unprecedented number of terabytes of spatial in-flight Synthetic Aperture Radar (X-SAR) data into ultra-high resolution 3D digital topography of the entire globe. From this was produced the world's most complete high-resolution digital topographic database of the surface of the Earth.
  • Additionally for NASA/JPL/CNES, Mr. Tarbell developed a novel customizable satellite telemetry generator/decommutator for JPL's Jason Telemetry Command & Control Subsystem (JTCCS) project, which was the first in the world to support real-time telecommanding of earth-orbiting satellites from wireless handheld smart devices. He designed and implemented real-time automation systems for deep space radio dish antennae (DSN), large-scale (multi-terabyte) data archival and retrieval systems, and GDSS, an advanced, distributed Command-and-Control (C2) solution that modernizes all aspects of air mobility operations for the U.S. Air Force.
  • In the field of advanced ophthalmics design, he has developed a distributed multi-user instantiation of the NSF-funded 3D computer-automated threshold Amsler Grid Test. As an adjunct, he has implemented an embeddable system (based on a 3D computer model of the eye) to simulate human visual perception under numerous debilitating eye conditions using ray tracing. This system is able to apply the effects of visual defects to images and video streams in near-real-time. Recently implemented is Dr. Fink's groundbreaking VR-based Virtual Opportunistic Reaction Perimetry (VORP) system for fast, accurate, high-resolution visual field testing of ophthalmic patients. And under the direction of PI Dr. Wolfgang Fink, Mr. Tarbell has implemented a smart-server ­backend processing framework architecture that allows the AES transmittal of medical imaging collected with smartphone­-based ophthalmic examination devices to remote servers for analysis, with near realtime analysis return to the originating smartphone.
  • Using novel image processing and data classification techniques, Mr. Tarbell co-developed a biomedical Artificial Vision Support System (AVS2), which uses instantaneous vision processing algorithms to interface to blind patients’ implanted microelectrode retinal array prostheses (the ARGUS and ARGUS II) in real time. This system is now a commercial-off-the-shelf, miniaturized, portable, battery-powered, general-purpose microprocessor platform for real-time image processing of video streams for camera-driven artificial vision prostheses, enabling true portability and thus independent mobility for blind subjects.
  • For the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory at Caltech, Mr. Tarbell co-designed, implemented, and demonstrated a remote telecommanding control system for testbedding autonomous planetary surface exploration. Recent developments include a Dynamically-Deployed Communications Network (DDCN) in support of the NASA-embraced distributed robotic multi-agent approach, Tier Scalable Reconnaissance (TSR), for the autonomous exploration of subsurface environments, and also the Automated Global Feature Analyzer (AGFA) which is an embeddable AI-based anomaly detection and target prioritization system for in-situ planetary exploration agents.
  • Mr. 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 as well as the NASA SPACE ACT BOARD award for field-deployable integrated air-ground multi-agent autonomous remote planetary surface exploration, the coveted NASA Space Act award for the development of significant scientific/technical contributions to aeronautical and space science, and the R&D 100 and R&D 100 Editors Choice awards for a Department of Energy (DOE) funded Artificial Retina project.
  • He is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and holds numerous patents in fields such as extraterrestrial space exploration and biomedical device design.