About Albert Yu-Min Lin

about_Albert Lin

Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin is a Research Scientist at the University of California, San Diego and an Emerging Explorer of the National Geographic Society in the field of technology enabled exploration.

He has founded and directed numerous programs including the UC San Diego, National Geographic Engineers for Exploration Program, the Exploration Lab, the Distributed Health Labs and the international effort known as the Valley of the Khans Project. Based at the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at UC San DIego he pushes the limits of field based research.

Albert’s research has taken him into the most remote regions of the world, has led to industry changing innovations, and has expanded the role of media in science.  His work has been featured in outlets including the Washington Post, BBC, NPR, ABC news, TEDx, Wired magazine, Gizmodo, al Jazeera, National Geographic, Newsweek (cover story), and the Harvard Business Review.  The effort he is most known for, the Valley of the Khans Project, is a hight tech ground, aerial and satellite based remote sensing non-destructive search for the tomb of Genghis Khan that was featured in a 1-hour National Geographic Documentary film, « the Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan », which he also narrated.  The goal of this effort, to enable international protection of a sacred region of Mongolia through non-destructive investigation, earned him recognition as National Geographic Adventure Magazine’s « 2010 Readers Choice Adventurer of the Year », the Lowell Thomas Medal for Exploration from the renowned New York based Explorers Club, and became the youngest recipent of the DRI Nevada Medal for Science Education.  His team’s use of digital media to perform massive satellite data analytics through crowdsourcing (recognized with the 2011 United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation Academic Achievement award) has been emulated for applications ranging from emergency response to humanitarian monitoring and led to the formation of California based Tomnod Inc. where he served as co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors until 2013 when the company was successfully acquired by the Colorado based commercial satellite imagery provider Digital Globe, at which time he joined the Digital Globe Foundation’s Board of Directors. He has been invited to present his work on massive scale collaboration and crowd based collective intelligence to organizations including the US Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Harvard Business School, and the Department of Defense at the Pentagon.

Albert continues to advocate science education through public engagement, working within organizations including the National Geographic Speakers Bureau and the US State Department as well as programs such as the Google Science Fair and SciFest Africa to expand the scope of curiosity world wide.  Recently, his work in public television media to advance the mission of conservation and exploration at National Geographic was recognized with the 2012 News and Documentary Emmy award in the category of best promotional announcement. Albert is an avid rock climber, surfer, mountaineer, photographer, sailor, and traveler.  His Chinese name (Yu-Min) roughly translates to “Citizen of the Universe”.


Throughout his life Albert Lin has been driven by a pursuit of anthropological discovery.  Driven by this he spent every summer traveling to the far reaches of the world, to locations such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Pakistan, Mongolia, and the Central, Eastern, Southern and Northern stretches of China. Throughout his higher Education Albert’s professional interests were paralleled, if not daunted by this pursuit.

After completing his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in 2008, Albert was faced with the same introspective dilemma many face in the midst of life’s crossroads: fit life’s expectations or chase one’s passion.  Inspired by the words of a mentor he chose the later.

“If we progress forward with technology but forget why we do so, we will inevitably lose what makes us human.  Progress should fuel humanity not leave it behind.”

From this, he chose to use his degree in engineering to explore the elements of our humanity, to apply technology toward the understanding, preservation and sustainable development of our shared planet.

Albert’s National Geographic Emerging Explorer Profile: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/field/explorers/albert-lin/

Programs/Project Pages

UC San Diego, National Geographic Engineers for Exploration Program – http://e4e.ucsd.edu

Valley of the Khans Project – http://exploration.nationalgeographic.com

Distributed Health Lab –  http://distributedhealth.org

Center for Interdisciplinary Science in Art, Architecture and Archaeology – http://cisa3.calit2.net

Exploration Lab – http://explorationlab.org

Industry and Institutions

Tomnod Inc.  :  co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors – http://www.tomnod.com

Digital Globe Foundation : Member of the Board of Directors – http://www.digitalglobefoundation.org/about-us

Institute for the Development of the Internet, Spain : Scientific Advisory Board – http://www.isdi.es

Selected Awards and Honors

2012 33rd annual News and Documentary Emmy « Best Promotional Announcment » , Nat Geo « NewGeneration Explorer  » campagin [link]

2012 ‘Emerging Leader’ award from the UC San Diego Alumni Association

2011 United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, Research Achievement Award at GeoINT

2011 Asian Heritage Award for Excellence in Culture Preservation,

2011 Webby Awards Official Honoree in the Category of Science for « Virtual Expedition Mongolia »

2011 Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Medal for Achievements in Exploration

2010 National Geographic Adventure’s Readers Choice « Adventurer of the Year »

2006 Powell Lee Fellow.

Research Group

Collaborating Scientist (non-UCSD)

Dr. Fredrik Hiebert – National Geographic Archaeology Fellow [Link]

Prof. Shagdaryn Bira – Mongolian Academy of Science

Prof. Tsogt-Ochiryn Ishdorj – International Association for Mongol Studies

Dr. Mijidorj Enkbayar – National University of Mongolia

Dr. Alexandre Novo – Geostudi Astier [Link]

Dr. Dean Goodman – GPR Slice [Link]

Prof. Karim Lakhani – Harvard Business School [Link]

Dr. Luke Barrington – Tomnod Inc. [Link]

Dr. Shay Harnoy – Tomnod Inc. [Link]

Dr. Nathan Ricklin – Tomnod Inc. [Link]

Ron Eguchi – Imagecat Inc. [Link]

Dr. Kostas Stamatiou

Collaborating UCSD Faculty

Prof. Gert Lanckriet  – Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering [Link]

Prof. Ryan Kastner – Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering [Link]

Dr. Eliah Aronoff-Spencer (MD/Ph.D.) –  Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases [Link]

Prof. Falko Kuester – Calit2 Professor for Visualization and Virtual Reality [Link]


Andrew Huynh – Ph.D. student (NSF IGERT)

Perry Naughton –  Ph.D. Student (NSF IGERT)

« Beke » – Erdembileg Chuluun-Erdene – M.S. student

Engineering Staff

Sean Panto – Distributed Health Lab Senior Engineer

Roger Jennings – Embedded Systems

Danile Johnson – Calit2 Circuits Lab

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