Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Sarah Parcak ’01: A “space archeologist’s” Egyptian eye in the sky.

Sarah Parcak ’01 uses the newest technology in the sky to find some of the oldest things under the sun.

An Egyptologist and self-styled “space archeologist,” Parcak uses satellite images to spy out likely sites of ancient cities. The technology saves time, she tells BBC Radio: “There are 50 locations I have to check; I can do that in two weeks instead of two years.” And the satellite data, properly processed and analyzed, can yield results that are invisible to the naked eye: “I think it’s the most exciting time in history to be an archeologist.”

Parcak comes by her desire for a bird’s-eye view naturally: her grandfather, a professor in Maine, “pioneered the use of aerial photography in forestry,” according to her bio. But it was at Yale where, as a senior double majoring in Egyptology and archeology, she “took a class that changed her life”: an introduction to interpreting satellite imagery.

This week Parcak—an associate professor at the University of Alabama, where she founded and directs a laboratory for satellite remote sensing—was a fellow at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), the annual California gathering of “the world’s leading thinkers and doers.” Her talk, unfortunately, is not yet available online (unless you want to pay a $995 registration fee), but a TED blog post says her team has discovered “more than 3,100 new sites.”

Parcak’s fellow TED fellows include not only your everyday brilliant inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs, but also a self-described “shadow artist,” “nightclub behaviorist,” and “maker.” Parcak herself Tweets under the name indyfromspace (as in Indiana Jones). Lest you think her too highfalutin, however, bear in mind that she wrote a book called Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology, and that she told an Alabama journalist: “I live for dirt.”

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