Who We Are

The Exploration Lab is a multi-disciplinary research group focused on applying advanced technologies and a thorough scientific method to expedition based scientific research and exploration. We develop and apply new methodologies in ultrahigh resolution satellite imagery, discount unmanned aerial instrumentation, and geophysical remote sensing to exploration conducted in the most remote and rugged environments on this planet. Housed within UC San Diego’s California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, we create and use the most advanced visualization technology in the world.


Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin

Founding Director of the Exploration Laboratory.

Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin holds appointments as a Research Scientist at the University of California, San Diego and an Emerging Explorer of the National Geographic Society in the field of technology enabled exploration.

As the creator and Principal Investigator of the Valley of the Khans Project, a non-invasive technology based search for the tomb of Genghis Khan, Dr. Lin has lead multiple high-tech expeditions deep into the most remote parts of the world 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 crowdsourcing earned him 2011 USGIS Academic Achievement award, and lead to the formation of California based Tomnod Inc. where is is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors. The interactive web-based effort was also recognized as a 2010 Webby Honoree in the category of Science.

At UC San Diego he founded and co-Directs the National Geographic Engineers for Exploration Program which continues to develop innovative technologies in aerial, terrestrial, geophysical and underwater robotics for remote sensing and exploration.

Lin’s efforts have been highlighted internationally in publications including the Washington Post, NPR, ABC news, TEDx, Wired Magazine, and a 1-hour National Geographic Documentary film, “the Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan”, that he narrated.
They have also earned him recognition as National Geographic Adventure Magazine’s “2010 Readers Choice Adventurer of the Year” and the 2011 Lowell Thomas Medal for Exploration from the prestigious Explorers Club.

His dedication for science and education is exemplified in lectures, mentorship and activities including contributions to National Geographic School Learning textbooks, participation as a judge and representative in the Google Science Fair, and an ambassador for the NG Young Explores Program.

Albert is an avid rock climber, surfer, mountaineer, photographer, sailor, and traveler. His Chinese name (Yu-Min) roughly translates to “Citizen of the Universe”.

Dr. Nathan D. Ricklin

Founding Member of The Exploration Laboratory

Nate Ricklin (Ph.D. May 2010) is a founding member of the Exploration Laboratory and the Valley of the Khans Project and is the team’s Field Systems Engineer. For VOTK, he establishes and develops industry contacts, and collaborates with sponsors to design, develop, and implement tech for the field including power systems, communications systems/network topology, geophysical tools, data collection/storage, and GIS tools. He also leads the team’s “digital archeology” efforts: using satellite imagery with 3D modelling tools on UCSD’s HIPerSpace wall and StarCave to follow in the footsteps of past explorers and to locate likely locations of Genghis Khan’s burial site.

As a climber, Nate has been recognized twice in the American Alpine Journal for ascents of new routes in his home mountains, California’s High Sierra. A glutton for punishment, Nate also enjoys pushing his limits winter climbing, with winter ascents of Mt. Whitney and The Northeast Ridge of Lone Pine Peak, culminating in the first winter ascent of the Complete North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak in a 29-hour fast-and-light push. Other ascents include the Northwest Face of Half Dome and the Frendo Spur on the 4000 foot North Face of the Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps.

Nate also enjoys long walks on the beach and pushing himself to the point of vomiting while training for hard climbs.

Dr. Shay S. Har-Noy

Founding Member of The Exploration Laboratory

Shay Har-Noy graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Rice University in 2004 and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of California, San Diego in 2006 and 2009. He has extensive experience in the field of image/video processing and computer vision and holds multiple patents and publications in the field. Har-Noy is currently with Tomnod, Inc., where he is bringing crowdsourcing and geospatial analytics to the masses. In addition to his technical expertise, Har-Noy is an avid climber and has been recognized twice in the American Alpine Journal for first ascents in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. His expertise in communication, computer vision, and image/video processing will be essential to the development of novel digital interfaces in technology-enabled human exploration.

Dr. Kostas Stamatiou

Founding Member of The Exploration Laboratory

Curiosity led Kostas Stamatiou on travels away from his native Greece to the rest of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. He came to the United States in 2002 in order to rock climb and pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He is now a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Padua, Italy, where he conducts research on the performance analysis and design of modern wireless communication networks. Stamatiou’s primary role in the Valley of the Khans Project is to educate himself and his fellow engineers on the rich literature regarding 13th-14th century Mongolia, Mongol customs, and spiritual beliefs. He holds a supporting role in other aspects of the project, including fieldwork and expedition planning.

Dr. Alex Novo

Geophysics Specialist

A noninvasive geophysical survey specialist, Dr. Alex Novo, from the Geostudi Astier in Livorno, Italy, is an expert in ground-penetrating radar 3-D high-resolution reconstruction and imaging. A scientist and adventurer, Dr. Novo served as an expert in mapping the sites of archaeological interest for the Valley of the Khans Mongolia expeditions.

Ben Horton

Team Photographer

Ben Horton started his career as a photographer by taking photographs of places where other people simply couldn’t go. The more remote the location, the harder it was to get there, the more appeal it had for the young upstart. As it goes, Ben’s original passion caught ahold of him once again while shooting a documentary film on a remote island in the Pacific. Ben was awarded the first ever National Geographic Young Explorers Grant for work he did to expose the issue of shark poaching on Cocos Island and as a result, he was invited to join National Geographic Explorer in Residence Will Steger on a two month arctic adventure, using photography to document the effects of global warming. Ben is now a contributing photographer for National Geographic, and uses his advanced outdoor skills to tell the stories of the worlds far off places. Ben’s early career as a professional Kayaker gets him into remote rivers, diving and climbing experience get him to vantage points not often seen by the general public.

Radley Angelo

Aerial Sensing Specialist

Radley is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of California at San Diego. Radley has extensive experience with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for use in sensing applications. Radley has served as the UAV specialist during the Valley of the Khans most recent expedition to Mongolia to conducting aerial surveys of historically significant archaeological sites, and has worked closely with the team on data collection and organization.