Albert is an award winning Explorer of the National Geographic Society, serial entrepreneur, UCSD scientist, and storyteller.  From the remote highlands of Mongolia to the jungles of Guatemala he has applied an innovator's approach to exploration.

The most exciting thing about science is the unknown — anything is possible”, says Lin

His career began with the Valley of the Khans Project, where he used satellites, drones, geophysics, and intensive ground exploration to search for the tomb of Genghis Khan. Albert has also applied similar approaches to Maya sites in Guatemala and First Emperor's tomb in Xian, China.

While in Mongolia he developed the first platform to crowdsource human analytics of large amounts of Satellite imagery, merging remote field exploration with public participation.  The success of this platform led to requested briefings at the pentagon, the NGA, and the Harvard Business School where he was also invited to serve as an advisor to the HBS Digital Initiative.  He subsequently co-founded the crowd-based analytics company Tomnod (mongolian word meaning “big eye”) which was acquired in 2011 by the leading commercial satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe.  Albert now serves on the DigitalGlobe Foundation’s board of directors.  The innovation has since been used on humanitarian efforts, environmental monitoring, search and rescue (including an 8 million person search for flight MH370), and is currently being applied by National Geographic to survey threatened archaeological sites globally.

As a former engineering student himself, Albert often reminds others that National Geographic was co-founded by an engineer, Alexander Graham Bell.  “Innovation, curiosity, grit are the ingredients of great exploration”, he says.  With this in mind, he launched the NSF funded Engineers for Exploration program at UC San Diego in 2010, which has sent hundreds of top engineering students from across the country into field expeditions around the globe.  

In 2015 he co-founded the digital k-12 education platform Planet3 Inc. (http://exploreplanet3.com) to democratize the “ah-ha feeling” that is at the frontier of exploration and science and has successfully raised $15M for this effort to date.  “We are in a battle for science literacy, and that battle will be won or lost in the classroom”, he said in an address on the National Mall during the 2017 March for Science.

Most recently, Albert has taken on innovation in a much more personal context becoming partially Bionic.  Exploring the interface between mind, body, society and technology as a frontier, he has pushed the human boundary further.   

Lin has received multiple recognitions, including National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year in 2009, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Academic Achievement Award, the Explorer’s Club’s Lowell Thomas Medal, and the Nevada Medal (as the youngest ever recipient).  His feature in National Geographic’s “Next Generation Explorer” campaign was recognized with an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Promotional Announcement. 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.


As a storyteller Lin has hosted and narrated multiple documentary films including “the Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan”, and “China’s Mega Tomb”.  With storytelling in his heart, Albert has also lectured worldwide in venues ranging from the Sorbonne in Paris to Singapore’s Esplanade.  

Albert is an avid surfer, climber, guitar player, photographer, and father.  His middle name “Yu Min” 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:



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

2014 DRI "Nevada Medal" (The State's Highest Scientific Honor) [link]

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