"Adventurer" to urge UCSD grads to find, fix problems
Albert Lin's global exploits include search for Genghis Khan's tomb
By Pat FlynnOriginally published 6:40 p.m., June 9, 2011, updated 7:20 p.m., June 9, 2011
Read the original article here.
Professor Albert Lin uses Calit2’s StarCAVE virtual-reality environment at UCSD to explore 3D terrain models in his search for Genghis Khan’s tomb. Erik Jepsen/Calit2 UCSD LA JOLLA — Politicians and entrepreneurs are common. Humanitarians and diplomats are right up there. Even actors and journalists are asked to deliver a college commencement speech on occasion.
But how often do graduates get sent off into the world buoyed by the words of an adventurer of the year?
University of California San Diego graduates and others who attend the university’s All-Campus Graduation Celebration at 7 p.m. Friday will be able to say they did.
Albert Lin, a UCSD research scientist and National Geographic Adventure magazine’s 2010 adventurer of the year, will address them.
“For the graduating class of 2011, it’s a scary time,” Lin said this week in his campus office. “We have some major problems to solve — climate change, the threat of nuclear war, economic inequities. What we do with these challenges is what defines us.
“But you think this is bad? Go back 10,000 years and you would be worrying about getting your head ripped off my a mammoth,” Lin said, jotting down the idea on a yellow note pad for possible inclusion in his speech.
The office setting, with an oversized computer monitor and more books on the humanities than from Lin’s field of engineering, belies the 30-year-old’s swashbuckling life. He has been trekking the globe since he was 16, but the exploits that have won him national notice are his efforts to locate the tomb of Genghis Khan, study it through non-invasive means and otherwise promote “international conservation and awareness of Mongolian cultural heritage and it’s impact on our culture.”
Lin, who has been compared to the fictional Indiana Jones, has visited Mongolia a number of times. Two years ago he led an expedition, funded by a National Geographic Waitt grant, in search of the long-sought tomb in the rugged northern portion of the country called the Forbidden Zone.
A committee of university staffers and graduating students selected Lin, who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at UCSD, to speak at the all-campus event.
The La Jolla university will hold a total of 11 ceremonies — most of them this weekend — for nearly 8,000 graduates. The all-campus gathering was conceived four years ago as a unifying event.
“We were initially interested in Albert because of his fascination with Mongolia and search for the Genghis Khan tomb,” Ching Jui Young, a graduating senior and co-chair of the event, said in a prepared statement. “But we were intrigued to learn that his expedition started with a curiosity in his own cultural roots ... We are particularly proud that Lin’s journey began here as an undergraduate student.”
Ramesh Rao, director of the UCSD Division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), said Lin was a sound choice.
“He’s a great speaker, a very engaging fellow,” Rao said. “He is an inspiring figure to undergraduate students and graduates. His story will open many minds at this graduation.”
Rao noted that Lin’s doctorate in material science wouldn’t necessarily seem to apply to archaeological pursuits.
“But for a number of reasons, including his own sense of imagination, it does,” Rao said. “There is only one Genghis Khan tomb to search for. He demonstrates how engineering principles can be applied to answering one-of-a-kind questions. He has applied that, which has meant embracing other technologies and disciplines.”
Among the approaches Lin has embraced is crowdsourcing. Through the project’s website “Field Expedition: Mongolia — Valley of the Khans Project,” Lin has enlisted nearly 10,000 volunteers around the world to study high-resolution satellite images of the vast Forbidden Zone for anomalies that the researchers can then follow up on.
Lin, whose father is an astrophysicist and whose mother was a Hong Kong movie star, said the biggest part of his UCSD education was “learning how to learn, learning to be adaptive.”
He said he is going to tell the graduates to “go find a problem and solve it.”
“There is no degree for what you are going to do next,” Lin said. “Your degree is almost a stamp that says you’re going to be able to figure it out.”
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