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VISUAL AND AUTONOMOUS EXPLORATION SYSTEMS RESEARCH LABORATORY
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Personnel of the Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory:

2. Collaborators:

3. Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows:

Ankur Datta
Daniel Micol
Anna
Cindy

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1. Members:

Associate Professor Dr. Wolfgang Fink is the inaugural Edward & Maria Keonjian Endowed Chair of Microelectronics with joint appointments in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Systems and Industrial Engineering, Aerospace and Mechanical 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.

Dr. Wolfgang Fink's Personal Web Page

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Mark A. Tarbell is 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 microelectrode retinal array prostheses in real time. He developed 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 IEEE Computer Society 60th Anniversary special volume, The Cognitive Dynamics of Computer Science by S.M. de Gyurky. Most recently, he is 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 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.

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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.

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2. Collaborators:

Dr. Alfredo A. Sadun began his studies of brain science at M.I.T. and then earned a Ph.D. and an M.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His residency and chief residency were at the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical. He completed a clinical fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at Harvard Medical and then joined the full time faculty at Harvard. In 1984, Dr. Sadun was recruited to join the full-time faculty of the Doheny Eye Institute. His research has centered on the clinical, psychophysical and laboratory studies of diseases of the optic nerve and its connections with the brain. He was the first to identify several optic neuropathies due to systemic diseases such as AIDS and Alzheimer's. In 1993 he was selected and sponsored by the United Nations to lead an investigative team to determine the cause of an epidemic of optic neuropathy in Cuba. Currently, his research is centered on mitochondrial causes of optic neuropathy such as LHON and has developed a unifying theory of these diseases. Dr. Sadun was appointed the inaugural recipient of the Flora L. Thornton Endowed Chair in Vision Research in 2000.

Dr. Sadun has been recognized as an international authority in neuro-ophthalmology and especially diseases of the optic nerve. He has received the RPB James Adams Scholar Award in 1990 and the RPB Senior Investigator Award in 1997. In 1999 he received the Lighthouse International Pisart Award, this organization's highest research prize given annually to one vision scientist or clinician deemed to have made the greatest international contribution against blindness. In 2003 Dr. Sadun received the highest award bestowed by the American Academy of Ophthalmology for education, the Straatsma prize. For his contributions to ophthalmology and the academy, he also received, in 2005, the Senior Honor Award.

In 2012, Dr. Sadun received, as a combined prize from two organizations (AAO and NANOS), the William Hoyt Award, the highest honor in Neuro-Ophthalmology. Sadun is the author or co-editor of four books, over 270 peer reviewed articles, and 70 book chapters.

Dr. Alfredo Sadun's Personal Web Page

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Victor R. Baker is Regents' Professor of the University of Arizona in the Departments of Hydrology and Water Resources, Planetary Sciences and Geosciences. He has more than 35 years experience in planetary science research, particularly in geological studies of Mars and Venus. He also has had long experience with interpretive studies of terrestrial remote sensing, especially in regard to his specialties in fluvial geomorphology and flood hydrology. Dr. Baker is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, Honorary Fellow of the European Geosciences Union, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Foreign Member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He was the 1998 President of The Geological Society of America, and he holds the 2001 Distinguished Scientist and 2010 Distinguished Career Awards from the Quaternary Geology and Geomorphology Division of that society. He is author or editor of 17 scholarly books or monographs, more than 350 scientific papers and chapters, and over 400 published abstracts and short reports.

Dr. Victor Baker's Personal Web Page

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Tom Tombrello, Ph.D., professor of physics, received his Ph.D. at Rice before taking positions at Yale and Caltech. Since 2012 he is the Goddard Professor at Caltech. He was the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of physics at Caltech from 1997-2011, and served as Chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy from 1998-2008. Tombrello was Vice President and Director of Research at Schlumberger and has advised the US government and corporations on a broad range of scientific issues. He received a Ph.D. h.c. from Uppsala University. His research interests comprise nuclear and ion beam physics, materials science, surface physics, planetary science, geochemistry, and technology.

Dr. Tom Tombrello's Personal Web Page

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Mory Gharib, Ph.D., Vice Provost of Caltech, is the Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Bioinspired Engineering specializing in Hydro and aerodynamics, biological flows, bio-inspired medical devices, and advanced flow visualization techniques. He received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tehran University (1975) and then pursued his graduate studies at Syracuse University (M.S., 1978, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering) and Caltech (Ph.D., 1983, Aeronautics). After two years as a senior scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA/CIT), he joined the faculty of the Applied Mechanics and Engineering Sciences Department at UCSD in 1985. He became a full professor of fluid mechanics in 1992 and, in January 1993, he joined Caltech as a professor of aeronautics. Dr. Gharib co-founded the Bioengineering option at Caltech in 2000 and served as its Steering Committee Chairman until June of 2006. Dr. Gharib holds more than 50 U.S. Patents in areas of Biomedical Devices and Imaging Technology. He is a fellow of the American association for the advancement of science (AAAS), and five other professional societies. He has received 5 new technology recognition awards from NASA in the fields of advanced laser imaging and nanotechnology. He was recipient of R&D 100 award for the design of a 3D imaging system in 2008.

Dr. Mory Gharib's Personal Web Page

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Dirk Schulze-Makuch, is Associate Professor at Washington State University. His most recent scientific accomplishments are the publication of his book "Life in the Universe: Expectations and Constraints" (Springer Publ., Berlin, 2004) along with many refereed papers in international journals. His research is centered on a broad range of topics with astrobiological relevance. He is the Director of the Laboratory for Astrobiological Investigations & Space Mission Planning.

Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch's Personal Web Page

Laboratory for Astrobiological Investigation & Space Mission Planning

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Wayne Waller managed the Digital Media Center (DMC) at Caltech and participated in its consulting, production, and teaching activities. Wayne attended UC Berkeley's School of Architecture and during his years there worked as a research coordinator at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, first for Luis Alvarez's group and later the Trilling-Goldhaber Research Group (his first indirect connection with Caltech). He went on to a second educational career at UCLA in film production and, eventually, to graduate and post-graduate work in the critical study of media. While on the faculty at USC, Wayne became part of a small group of early experimenters with interactive multimedia computing, eventually leaving to help establish a new software company. The pioneering work of this small firm in the use of the computer in psychotherapy and interpersonal problem-management was later honored by the Smithsonian Institute for software innovation in Medicine (1990). Before coming to Caltech, Wayne also worked extensively as a designer and communications consultant with corporate and institutional clients that included Johnson and Johnson, Harvard University, and numerous companies in the advertising and entertainment industries.

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3. Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows:

Student feedback:

"My name is Ankur Datta and I am currently a PhD student at the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Fink during my summer internship at Caltech in 2003. Dr. Fink at that time had an idea about extracting geologically valuable features from images of rock terrain and the goal for me was to utilize my computer vision knowledge to make it a working system. During the course of 3 months that I was there, he served as a capable mentor and more importantly a really nice person to interact with. Though I was technically under a JPL project, there were numerous occasions when he traveled to Caltech to have project discussions with me, which obviously saved me the trouble of going to JPL. We had quite a fruitful collaboration with 2 conference papers published and a journal paper currently under preparation. Now that I look back, it was quite easily the most productive and fun internship that I had done during my undergraduate years. The discussions with him are always lively and his ability to create a positive outlook on the mentor-mentee relationship is quite valuable for any student. I would highly recommend Dr. Fink as a mentor."

Ankur Datta at Agua Caliente State Park.

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"My name is Daniel Micol, I am a Computer Science student from Spain and Wolfgang Fink was my SURF mentor in Summer 2005, on a project entitled 'SIMEYE: Computer Based Simulation of Visual Perception Under Various Eye Defects'. During the whole term of the SURF project Wolfgang Fink demonstrated to be very committed to me and my project, with several weekly meetings that could last for hours. Hence, I always felt supported and guided by him, and this was a determining factor to make our project finally successful. In fact, we presented a poster at an International Congress and have published a paper in a peer-reviewed journal, which is a tremendous success for a project that only lasted about two months. In addition, he always welcomes students not only from Caltech, but in particular also international students and from other US universities, in contrast to the majority of SURF mentors, that only accept Caltech students. Thus, I would strongly encourage any SURF applicant to consider Wolfgang Fink as his future mentor and I am sure he won't feel unattended in any moment."

Daniel Micol and Wolfgang Fink.

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"My name is Anna Michalska and I am a Computer Science student from the International University in Bremen, Germany. In summer 2006 I undertook research under the guidance of Wolfgang Fink, Ph.D., a seasoned mentor at the California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, USA. My personal project involved: 'Comprehensive Web Page Design for the General Public and Domain Experts'. From the very beginning I knew that my experience at Caltech would be unique, which was definitely a merit of my mentor - Prof. Wolfgang Fink. It was he who always provided me with an invaluable atmosphere that encouraged creativity and innovation. Our "never-ending" meetings to consult the progress of the research project were stimulating and mind-expanding. We worked hard on designing and implementing accessible templates of a web page. In the end I felt great satisfaction from the finished project under the supervision of Wolfgang Fink, Ph.D., who empowered me to take on that challenge."

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"My name is Cindy You, and I am an Applied and Computational Mathematics major at the California Institute of Technology. I worked with Dr. Fink during the summer of 2008 on determining the optimization of image processing in vision prosthesis, and during the summer of 2009 on a software package for the automated analysis of human visual field defects. My experience was rewarding in many ways; I had the opportunity to present a poster at a conference, publish two research papers, and learned much about how to conduct research. Dr. Fink's generous guidance always encouraged me explore my own ideas and provided much invaluable wisdom and expertise. I enjoyed the many meetings and discussions very much, as conversation was always interesting, enlightening, encouraging, and above all, friendly. My research experience with Dr. Fink was one of the highlights of my undergraduate education. "

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