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Tomb Raider

Call him an Indiana Jones for the high-tech gen. Part academic, part fearless adventurer, Albert Yu-Min Lin has captured global attention with his quest to find the tomb of Genghis Khan. The researcher at UCSD’s Calit2 relies on sophisticated tools—“and good old-fashioned horses that take us into the unknown,” says Lin, the son of a former Hong Kong movie star and an astrophysicist. “What else is there to live for if not your own curiosity?”

Albert Lin, a UCSD and Nat Geo explorer, stands in a eucalyptus grove across from his campus lab. He is photographed with his Burmese sword.

Why Genghis Khan?
I spent my grad school summers running around Asia with a backpack and a guitar. I ended up living in Mongolia with nomads that I met on a train and learned Khan’s incredible story. After that I was hooked.

The story behind the sword?
It was a gift from the Mongolian family that took me in on my first solo-wandering journey. I used it to saber the Champagne at my wedding.

Recent speaking engagements?
I was part of a U.S. State Department science outreach program in South Africa. Afterward, I took a long road trip with my wife and our toddler. We ended up at a surf/fishing shack in the middle of a section of uninhabited desert coast—think never-ending rolling sand dunes, ostriches and blue skies. I was also recently in Scotland, where I was invited to dinner at Royal Archers’ Hall with Apple’s ‘The Woz.’

Best part of being a National Geographic explorer?
The closed-door ‘Explorer’s Symposium’ every summer in D.C. Don Walsh, Jane Goodall and others get together to map out the year of exploration.
Biggest adventure to date?
Other than looking for Genghis Khan’s tomb? Having kids.

Collect anything?
Memories. I’ve been trying to make a habit of framing at least one photo from each place. And kids’ clothes and toys.

Dream trip?
India. Maybe it was that Wes Anderson movie, The Darjeeling Limited.

Traveling with wee ones?
It’s fun if you are willing to let go of that basic need for control a bit.