Albert Yu-Min Lin
The Desert Research Institute, the environmental research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education, has awarded University of California, San Diego research scientist Albert Yu-Min Lin its 27th annual Nevada Medal for his work in digital exploration and science education. Lin is the youngest research scientist and the first materials scientist and engineer to receive the DRI Nevada Medal.
Lin, whose Chinese name (Yu-Min) roughly translates to “Citizen of the Universe”, is a research scientist in the Qualcomm Institute, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). Lin is also an Emerging Explorer of the National Geographic Society in the field of technology-enabled exploration. He developed the UCSD-National Geographic Engineers for Exploration program, and co-directs the Qualcomm Institute’s Distributed Health Labs.
Lin is in great company. Previous winners of the medal include National Geographic explorer, who discovered the Titanic, Robert Ballard (2010), Human Genome Project leader Francis Collins (2009), NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director James Hansen (2008), among the more recent recipients.
As the creator and Principal Investigator of the Valley of the Khans Project, an international multidisciplinary effort to locate the tomb of Genghis Khan, Lin led multiple technology-driven expeditions deep into the most remote parts of Mongolia and developed innovative platforms for satellite, aerial and subsurface remote sensing in exploration.
His team’s pioneering work to create new methods for massive data analysis through innovative crowdsourcing techniques earned him the 2011 USGIS Academic Achievement award, and the project was featured in a one-hour National Geographic Channel documentary, “The Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan,” also in 2011.
“To me the Nevada Medal comes with the heavy responsibility of honoring the spirit of human curiosity… the desire to seek the unknown, stand at its bank, and venture in,” said Lin, who holds a Ph. D. in Materials Science and Engineering, as well as B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering, all from UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering.
“Today the frontiers of exploration exist in science, driven by a need to expand our knowledge of the world around us, and defined by how we utilize that knowledge,” added Lin. “I am humbled and incredibly honored to be a small part of that.”
“Albert is a pioneer in a new era of digital exploration and science education through public engagement,” said DRI President, Dr. Stephen Wells. “His work has motivated participation from thousands of people in real-time, on-the-ground scientific discovery in ways we never imagined. I’m also very excited that we are honoring a materials scientist and engineer this year.”
The Nevada Medal was established by DRI in 1988 to acknowledge outstanding achievement in science and engineering. The annual award includes an eight-ounce minted medallion of .999 pure Nevada silver and $20,000 lecture honorarium.
The award program involves public lectures by the medalist at DRI campuses in Reno and Las Vegas. The award is formally presented by the Governor of Nevada during dinner ceremonies in in the two cities, attended by Nevada’s business, educational and governmental leaders.