Modern Day Indiana Jones Urges Graduates to
Follow Their Passion as Mankind Faces 'Make-it or Break-it Moment'
Christine Clark | June 13, 2011
UC San Diego researcher and National Geographic Adventure magazine's 2010 adventurer of the year Albert Yu-Min Lin
Photos by Erik Jepsen
He’s been called a visionary, an innovator, explorer and even a modern-day Indiana Jones. At 30, Albert Lin, alumnus and researcher at UC San Diego has earned world-renowned fame for his use of modern-day technologies to uncover an ancient past. Lin’s high-tech and high-risk excursions helped him earn the Adventurer of the Year 2010 award by National Geographic Adventure magazine.
Lin spoke to a crowd of about 2,500 graduating students at the fourth-annual All Campus Graduation Celebration Friday night.
“Right now, you are graduating with the combined knowledge of 2.6 million years of human existence,” said Lin. “There are amazing things happening now. Incredible technologies, but we’re facing huge problems. We’re in a make-it or break-it moment.”
Lin earned his doctoral degree in materials science, and before that, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, all from UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering. While he was an undergraduate at Thurgood Marshall College, Lin took a trip to Mongolia, where he became fascinated with the search for the tomb of Genghis Khan and Mongolian culture.
Lin urged students to find out what they are passionate about because, after that, anything is possible. He spoke about how his post-graduate research wasn’t well-funded at first, but he remained determined to do what he loved.
“I rode on the handle bars of my buddy’s Schwinn bicycle to work every day,” he said. “I was living out of my car and wearing everything I owned to work. But I found that I could use the tools from engineering and technology to make archeological discoveries … One day I got a call from NatGeo (National Geographic) and they said they wanted to sponsor me.”
Fireworks concluded the All Campus Graduation Celebration.
Lin’s current work applies 3D immersive technologies, satellite and aerial remote sensing, massive-scale crowdsourcing of data and geophysical surveying techniques during field expeditions to Mongolia.
Friday’s all-campus ceremony, where Lin served as keynote speaker, kicked off UCSD’s commencement weekend, during which about 7,500 students received undergraduate, graduate and professional diplomas. The all-campus celebration opened with a performance by Ascension, UCSD’s hip-hop organization, and an address from Chancellor Marye Anne Fox.
Fox congratulated the students for being the graduating class integral to UC San Diego’s 50th Anniversary celebration. “Fortunately for you, you have a UC San Diego education. And that means something. Not only have you have gained the skills you need for your future jobs, you’ve learned what true collaboration means,” Fox said. “And you’ve learned to be creators and innovators—the people who blaze the trail, not follow it—just like our founders who established our campus 50 years ago. With a UC San Diego education, you can do anything.”
According to Armin Afsahi, executive director of UCSD Alumni and assistant vice chancellor for Alumni Affairs, Lin personifies the true spirit of a UC San Diego graduate. “As an alumnus, he has harnessed his entrepreneurial spirit to follow his passion and in making real a future he saw when he first came here as a student,” said Afsahi.
Students pose for photos in front of the inflatable Sun God
Following his third graduation, Lin took another trip to Mongolia after finishing his dissertation in 2008. Returning to San Diego, Lin worked part time in the UCSD division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). There, he became familiar with the latest non-destructive imaging technologies that a pioneer in the field and fellow UCSD alumnus, Maurizio Seracini, Revelle ’73, was using to study paintings, historic buildings and other cultural artifacts. Since then, Lin has worked as research scientist in the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3), a partnership of Calit2, the Jacobs School and UC San Diego’s Division of Arts and Humanities founded by Serancini.
Lin’s passion for culture and heritage is a big part of why he was selected as keynote speaker for the All Campus Graduation Celebration. “We were initially interested in Lin because of his fascination with Mongolia and search for the tomb of Genghis Khan, but we were intrigued to learn that his expedition started with a curiosity in his own cultural roots,” said graduating senior and co-chair of the All Campus Graduation Celebration, Ching Jui Young. “We are particularly proud that Lin’s journey began here as an undergraduate student.”
In his address, Lin said the current economy shouldn’t deter students; in fact, it should inspire them to make new opportunities. “There is no specific degree for what you’ll do next,” Lin said. “But seize every opportunity. As the great Kara Lin, my wife, says, ‘don’t let the world happen to you, happen to the world.’”
Two Graduates Awarded
Awards at All Campus Graduation Celebration
Alexander A. Schafgans & Kimberly Ang
Friday, two students were recognized with the Outstanding Senior and Graduate Student awards during the All Campus Graduation Celebration. Kimberly Ang received the senior award. At UC San Diego, Ang has been dedicated to student life and community service in addition to her research. She was a fellow of the International Affairs Group and a member of the fraternity and sorority community, as well as president of PROSPECT, the UCSD Journal of International Affairs. Ang feels that in giving back to the campus and community, she has also enriched her own college experience. After graduation, Ang will be applying to graduate programs in history and international affairs. In January, she will begin a one-year journey traveling around the world, with the goal of visiting six of the seven continents.
Alexander A. Schafgans received the graduate award. Schafgans will be receiving a Ph. D. in physics––his third degree from UC San Diego, following both bachelor's and master's of science degrees in physics. Schafgans' impressive academic accomplishments and dedication to student support helped earn him the award. In addition to co-authoring 15 published and forthcoming peer-reviewed articles, Schafgans has been an advocate for student scholarship. He served as a council member on the UC San Diego Undergraduate Scholarship Council and in his role as a Chancellor's Associates Young Alumni, he founded the Chancellor's Challenge 5K Run/Walk for Scholars Young Alumni team. This team raised more than $7,500 for student scholarships in the past two years. His doctoral thesis focuses on the infrared magneto-optical properties of exotic phases of matter, including high temperature superconductivity and topological surface states. He is excited for the challenging new opportunities that lie ahead.