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Department of Biomedical Engineering

Alvarez, Tara L.

Contact Info
Title: Professor and Director Undergraduate Program
Email: tara.l.alvarez@njit.edu
Office: 611 Fenster Hall
Phone: 973-596-5272
Dept: Biomedical Engineering
Webpage: http://web.njit.edu/~alvarez

About Dr. Alvarez

Tara Alvarez, PhD,  associate professor of biomedical engineering, is conducting neuroscience research that could help stroke victims recover their vision but also lead to diagnosis of other visual diseases. Alvarez seeks to understand how the brain learns when visually locating objects in three-dimensional (3D) space. Understanding the learning strategies that the human brain uses to control eye movement will also yield insight into the general problem of motor learning.  Her research will lead to a better understanding of basic motor control and also discover how dysfunctions in the eyes’ three-dimensional tracking system affect motor learning.  In 2005, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Alvarez an NSF Career Award. Alvarez is using part of her NSF grant to enhance the Vision and Neural Engineering Laboratory at NJIT and to design new courses for undergraduates in NJIT’s expanding biomedical engineering program. In addition, Alvarez has developed a one-week course for NJIT’s pre-college FEMME program which teaches grade-school girls, most of whom are minorities, the fundamentals of science, technology and pre-engineering concepts. Alvarez’s research will help people with a visual problem called convergence insufficiency, or the inability to easily fixate the eyes on a near target. A person with convergence insufficiency cannot read or look at a computer screen for more than twenty minutes without getting headaches as well as blurred and double vision. The condition has also been linked to learning disabilities. And as societies become more dependent on prolonged and close-up visual tasks such as computer use, there will be more of a need to help people with such vision problems.

Education

  • Rutgers University, PhD in Biomedical Engineering, 1998
  • Rutgers University, MS in Biomedical Engineering, 1997
  • Rutgers University, BS in Biomedical Engineering, 1994

Professional Experience

 

  • Associate Professor, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, June 2006-present
  • Assistant Professor, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, August 2001-June 2006
  • Member of Technical Staff, Bell Laboratories, Whippany, NJ, August 1998-August 2001
  • Adjunct Professor, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ, Fall 2000
  • Graduate Assistant, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, 1995-1998
  • Teaching Assistant, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, 1993
  • Engineering Intern, Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, NJ, Summers 1990-1995

 

Professional Activities/Organizations

 

  • Outstanding Woman Scientist of NJ 2008
  • NORA (Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association)  functional MRI course (2008) (2 hours) (2008)
  • NORA founding members award for science 2008
  • Envision Conference functional MRI course (2 hours) 2008
  • Reviewer for Ophthalmology and Physiologic Optics 2005 to present
  • NSF reviewer 2006 to present
  • CAREER Award National Science Foundation 2005
  • Sigma Xi: Research Honor Society 2002
  • Tau Beta Pi: Engineering Honor Society 1993
  • Eta Kappa Nu: EE Honor Society Golden Key Honor Society 1993
  • Shield and Key Award 1993
  • Garden State Scholarship 1990
  • President’s Medal 1990

Courses Taught

  • Neural engineering
  • Biomedical instrumentation
  • Biomedical electronics

Visit http://web.njit.edu/~alvarez/classes.htm for course syllabi


Research Interests

  • Neural control of oculomotor movements
  • Adaptation, learning and plasticity of eye movements
  • Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to understand learning
  • Application of Independent Component Analysis and other Blind Source Separation techniques to understand oculomotor control
  • Effects of light energy of the visual tracking system for applications of driving safety and nonlethal military applications
  • Tonometry
  • Understanding the mechanism behind eye strain

Grants and Funded Research

 

  • Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF)  Graduate Research Supplement for Women or Minority Students”  from 7/2005 to 7/2006 Goal: Increase participation of underrepresented groups in engineering
  • Alvarez TL (co-PI) Semmlow (co-PI) Agency: Essilor International S.A. "The Impact of Vergence Adaptive Process of Progressive Lens" from 4/2003 to 4/2005.
  • Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: Department of Defense and VA Medical Center "Effects of Light Stimulation" from 5/2003 to 9/2003.  Goal: to understand how attention influences saccades
  • Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: Whitaker Foundation "Northeast Bioengineering Conference Paper and Design Competition" from 9/2003 to 9/2004.  Goal: to raise funds for travel awards and student paper competition
  • Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: Department of Defense and VA Medical Center"Evaluation of After-Image Stimulation on Temporal and Dynamic Features of Eye Movements" ($51,941) from 9/2002 to 9/2003.  Goal: to understand how attention influences saccades
  • Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: Separately Budgeted Research Grant from New Jersey Institute of Technology "Neural control and Component Interaction in Disparity Vergence Observed under Predictive and Nonpredictive Conditions" ($40,000) from 9/2001 to 9/2003. Goal: establish an eye movement research lab at NJIT

Ongoing

  • Alvarez TL (PI)  Biswal BB (CoPI) Simone LK (CoPI) Agency: NSF Advance “Development of a flexible visual stimulator for fMRI and home training” ($8000) from 9/2008 to 9/2009 Goal: Develop an instrument for visual stimulation during fMRI experiments that is more flexible than the current instrument.
  • Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF)Graduate Research Supplement for Women or Minority Students”  ($36,000) from 9/2008 to 9/2009 Goal: Increase participation of underrepresented groups in engineering
  • Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: Essilor International S. A. “The Vergence Component: An Indicator for Adaptation in Progressive Lens Wear?” ($254,000) from 1/2007 to 1/2010 Goal: Understanding why some individuals can easily adapt to wearing progressive lenses where other cannot
  • Alvarez TL (PI) Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award Mapping the Mind in Search of Oculomotor Learning Strategies” ($400,000) from 3/2005 to 3/2010  Goal: understand oculomotor learning in healthy controls

Completed


Selected Publications

All journal papers can be found in .pdf format at http://web.njit.edu/~alvarez/UntitledFrameset-3.htm

§          Lee YY, Chen T, Alvarez TL Quantitative Assessment of Divergence Eye Movements” Journal of Vision (2008) in press

§          Alvarez TL , Beck K, Ciuffreda KJ, Chua F, Daftari A, Bergen M, Servatius R. “Brief intermittent light stimulation disrupts saccadic oculomotor control”. Ophthalmic and  Physiological optics. (2008) Vol 4 pp 354-64

§          Semmlow JL, Chen Y-F, Pedrono C, Alvarez TL “Saccadic Behavior during the Response to Pure Vergence Stimuli I: General Properties” Journal of Eye Movement Research (2008) Vol. 1 pp 1-11

§          Alvarez TL, Semmlow JL, Pedrono C, "Dynamic Assessment of Disparity Vergence Ramps"  Computers in Medicine and Biology  (2007) Vol. 37 pp 903-9

§          Semmlow JL, Alvarez TL, Pedrono C: “Dry Dissection of Vergence Components using Independent Component Analysis” Computers in Medicine and Biology  (2007) Vol. 37 pp 910-918

§          Alvarez TL, Bhavsar M, Semmlow JL, BergenMT, Pedrono C: “Short-Term Predictive Changes in the Dynamics of Vergence Eye Movements,” Journal of Vision, (2005) Vol. 5  pp 640-9

§          Alvarez TL, Semmlow JL, Pedrono C, “Divergence Eye Movements are Dependent on Initial Stimulus Position,” Vision Research,  (2005) Vol. 45(14) pp 1847-55

§          Alvarez TL, Gollance SA, Thomas GA, Greene RJ, Marchetto PM, Moore EJ, Realinin T, Liebmann JM, Ritch R, Lama P, Fechtner RD: “The Proview Phosphene tonometer fails to measure ocular pressure accurately in Clinical Practice,” Ophthalmology. (2004) Vol.111(6) pp 1077-85

§          Alvarez TL, Semmlow JL, Yuan W, Munoz P: “Comparison of Disparity Vergence System Responses to Predictable and Non-predictable Stimulations,” Current Psychology of Cognition, (2002) Vol. 21  pp 243-261

§          Semmlow JL, Yuan W, Alvarez T: “Short-term Adaptive Control Processes in Vergence Eye Movement,” Current Psychology of Cognition, Vol. 21 (2002) pp 343-375

 

§          Alvarez TL, Semmlow JL, Yuan W, Munoz, P: “Disparity Vergence Double Responses Processed by Internal Error, Vision Research,” (2000) Vol. 40  pp 341-347

§          Munoz P, Semmlow JL, Yuan W, Alvarez TL: “Short-Term Modification of Disparity Convergence Eye Movements,” Vision Research, (1999) Vol. 39  pp. 1695-1705

 

§          Yuan W, Semmlow JL, Alvarez TL, Munoz P: “Dynamics of the Disparity Vergence Step Response: A Model based Analysis,” IEEE Transactions of Biomedical Engineering,  (1999) Vol. 46  pp. 1191-1198

 

§          Alvarez TL, Semmlow JL, Yuan, Munoz, P: “Dynamic Details of Disparity Convergence Eye Movements,” Annals of Biomedical Engineering, (1999) Vol. 27  pp. 380-390

§          Alvarez TL, Semmlow JL, and Yuan W:  “Closely-Spaced, Fast Dynamic Movements in Disparity Vergence,” Journal of Neurophysiology, (1998) Vol. 79  pp. 37-44

§          Semmlow JL, Yuan W, and Alvarez TL:  “Evidence for Separate Control of Slow Version and Vergence Eye Movements:  Support for Hering’s Law,” Vision Research, (1998) Vol 38  pp.1145-1152

 

Peer-Reviewed  Published Conference Proceeding Papers indexed on medline

§          Alvarez TL, Semmlow JL, Ciuffreda KJ, Gayed B, Granger-Donetti B "Vergence Transient Component: An Index to Oculomotor Learning Modification" Proceedings of the 29th Annual International Conference of the IEEE EMBS, (2007) pp 4850-4853.

§          Semmlow JL, Pedrono C, Alvarez TL" Saccadic Behavior during the Response to Pure Vergence Stimuli" Proceedings of the 29th Annual International Conference of the IEEE EMBS, (2007) pp 4854-4857.

 

§          Alvarez TL, Gayed B "Divergence Dynamic Modification as a Function of Initial Position" Proceedings of 28th IEEE EMBS Annual International Conference (2006) pp 5683-5686

§          Gayed B, Alvarez TL"Quantitative Assessment of Divergence Eye Movements to Ramp Stimuli" Proceedings of 28th IEEE EMBS Annual International Conference (2006) pp 3954-3957

 

§          Castillo CA, Gayed B, Pedrono C, Ciuffreda KJ, Semmlow JL, Alvarez TL"The Transient Component of Disparity Vergence maybe an Indication of Progressive Lens Acceptability" Proceedings of 28th IEEE EMBS Annual International Conference (2006) pp 5687-5690