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Sheldon H. Jacobson

Founder Professor of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sheldon H. Jacobson is a Founder Professor of Computer Science, Director of the Simulation and Optimization Laboratory, and Founding Director of the Bed Time Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds appointments in Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mathematics, and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

He has a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Mathematics from McGill University and a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Cornell University. He has served on the faculties at Case Western Reserve University (Weatherhead School of Management, 1988-1993), Virginia Tech (Industrial and Systems Engineering, 1993-1999), and the University of Illinois (1999-present). He served as a Program Director at the National Science Foundations (Engineering Directorate) from 2012-2014.

He has published 200 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters, 50 conference proceeding papers, 250 professional/editorial publications, and delivered over 510 presentations, seminars and posters at conferences, universities, and research laboratories around the world. He has directed 25 Ph.D. dissertations and been awarded over $5M of research support from the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

As the Director of the Bed Time Research Institute, he spearheaded the creation of two research videos (“A Healthy Collaboration: Pediatric Immunization and Operations Research”, “Aviation Security: Researching the Risk.”) and launched three websites all designed to communicate the value of basic and applied research through Broader Impact activities, and promulgate STEM activities for enhancing and growing a technically literate citizenry (,,,

He has made several seminal research contributions, all focusing on applying operations research and advanced analytics to address societal problems of national interest. He launched the research field, aviation security analytics, demonstrating how probabilistic models, optimization, and artificial intelligence can be used to improve the performance of aviation security systems. His research on multi-level aviation security passenger screening at airports was the precursor to risk-based security, providing the foundational concepts that informed the design and implementation of TSA Precheck©. His contributions have been recognized with numerous awards, including a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2018 INFORMS Impact Prize, given biennially to recognize widespread impact of operations research.

His research on the design of pediatric vaccine formularies introduced the use of operations research in the pediatric immunization domain. His research on bridging obesity, transportation, and fuel consumption established the impact of transportation on obesity, providing the foundation for non-medical obesity interventions based on modes of transportation.

His research on computational redistricting demonstrates how optimization-based AI can be used to combat gerrymandering by creating a transparent environment for designing and evaluating district maps.

His research has been widely reported and communicated in the national press, including the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe, editorialized in the New York Times, and discussed in Business Week, Forbes, Kiplinger, and The Osgood Files on CBS radio. He has appeared on CNBC's Street Signs and The Closing Bell, MSNBC’s Weekends with Alex Witt, Washington Post Radio, CBS This Morning, and CBC Canada News (television and radio), and BBC World News (television and radio).
He has been recognized with numerous awards, including the George E. Kimball Medal (INFORMS) (2020), Saul Gass Expository Writing Award (INFORMS) (2020), Omega Rho Plenary (2020), INFORMS Voluntary Service Award (2020), INFORMS Impact Prize (2018), David F. Baker Distinguished Research Award (IISE) (2017), Award for Technical Innovation in Industrial Engineering (IISE) (2010, 2013), Aviation Security Research Award (Aviation Security International) (2002), IIE Outstanding Publication Award (2009), Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Operations Research (IISE Operations Research Division) (2011), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2003). He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, 2020), the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS, 2013), and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE, 2011).

His leadership acumen and technical expertise have been sought by both government and professional societies. He briefed personnel within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (in the executive Office of President George W. Bush) on 31 August 2002, on issues related to aviation security research and the cost and benefit of checked baggage screening strategies. He briefed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP) on a web-site he co-developed for designing optimal pediatric vaccine formularies at their October 2001 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. He has served on committees for the National Academies, including the National Research Council Committee on Airport Passenger Screening: Backscatter X-Ray Machines (2013-2015) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Standing Committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Strategic National Stockpile (2015-2017). He led the NSF-Funded workshop (May 2016), Setting a Broader Impacts Innovation Roadmap, in creating new pathways for enhancing Broader Impacts in the Engineering Directorate at the NSF. He served as the (elected) Treasurer for INFORMS (2015-2016) and as a panelist at the INFORMS 2019 Government & Analytics Summit.


  • –present
    Professor of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


  • 1988 
    Cornell University, Engineeering/Operations Research

Professional Memberships

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences


Guggenheim Fellowship, AAAS Fellow, INFORMS Fellow.