Sheldon Howard Jacobson Ph.D.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign






Founder Professor in Computer Science

Director, Bed Time Research Institute

Director, Simulation and Optimization Laboratory
201 North Goodwin Avenue (MC-258)
University of Illinois

Urbana, Illinois 61801-2302

Telephone: (217) 244-7275

Fax: (217) 265-4035

Skype: sheldon.jacobson1


Twitter: @shjanalytics


Google Scholar Page

Scopus Page

Wikipedia Page

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-9042-8750


Primary and Affiliate Appointments:

Professor of Computer Science

Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Professor of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering

Professor of Mathematics (College of Liberal Arts and Science)

Professor of Pediatrics (College of Medicine)


Founding Director: Bed Time Research Institute (BTRI)

Web Sites of Interest within the BTRI

1)       What drives obesity? Visit Driving Obesity for the answer.

2)       The 2016 Election is now in the books. Visit Election Analytics for a summary of what happened.

3)       March Madness 2019... What are your bracket odds? Visit Bracketodds for help with your bracket.


Career Summary

Sheldon H. Jacobson is the Founder Professor in 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 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 has published 177 peer-reviewed articles, 11 book chapters, 48 conference proceedings, 28 professional and editorial publications, and delivered over 470 presentation, seminars and posters at conferences, universities, and research laboratories around the world.  He has directed 23 Ph.D. dissertations and been awarded over $4.5M of research support from the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. 


As 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 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 was the first researcher to analyze the costs and benefits of 100% checked baggage screening at commercial airports, determining that such policies were not viable not justifiable.  His research on multi-level aviation security passenger screening at airports was the precursor to risk-based security, informing the foundational concepts that led to TSA Precheck©.  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 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 The Street Signs (CNBC), The Closing Bell (CNBC), Weekends with Alex Witt (MSNBC), Washington Post Radio, CBS This Morning, CBC Canada News (television and radio), and BBC World News (television and radio).  His views have been published as opinion-editorials and letters in the Washington Post, Quartz, CNN Opinion, Inside Higher Ed, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune.


He has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (2003), the IISE David F. Baker Distinguished Research Award (2017), IISE Award for Technical Innovation in Industrial Engineering (2010, 2013), the Aviation Security Research Award (Aviation Security International) (2002), the IIE Outstanding Publication Award (2009), the Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Operations Research (IISE Operations Research Division) (2011), and was the runner-up for the Christopher Columbus Homeland Security Award (Transportation and Border Security) (2010).  He is an elected Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) (2013) and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) (2011).  He has also received several best paper and poster awards.


His leadership and expertise have been used 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) (August 2002, Washington, DC) on issues related to aviation security and assessing 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 (October 2001, Atlanta, Georgia.)  He served on committees for the National Academies, including the National Research Council Committee on Airport Passenger Screening: Backscatter X-Ray Machines (2013-2015), the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) Standing Committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Strategic National Stockpile (2015-2017), and A Workshop on Medical-Product Shortages: Effects on Patient Health and Opportunities to Predict, Prevent, and Respond to Them (2018).  He led the NSF-Funded workshop (May 2016, Arlington, VA), 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 the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) (2015-2016) and as a Program Director in the Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation at the National Science Foundation




Information of interest


Broader Impacts: How research supported by the National Science Foundation makes the world better for all.  Read the Workshop Report: Setting a Broader Impacts Innovation Roadmap.



In the News

2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 and earlier

(28 June 2018) Suspect who rushed Delta plane on tarmac yelled “I’m going to blow this place’” Police Report,  (WXIA-TV 11Alive, NBC, Atlanta, GA) reports commentary by Sheldon H. Jacobson on airport perimeter security breaches.

(25 April 2018) Letter: Human error still a part of self-driving cars, which appeared in USAToday (page 5A), discusses how self-driving cars remain subject to human error, through compliance with the framework under which they must operate.

(16 April 2018) Local firm Stats bets big on artificial intelligence to gather sports data (Chicago Tribune, Ally Marotti) reports commentary by Sheldon H. Jacobson on how artificial intelligence is impacting the value of sports data.

(3 April 2018) Technology holds the key to redistricting reform (Houston Chronicle, Jay K. Aiyer (opinion)) draws on research by Sheldon H. Jacobson to argue that artificial intelligence and algorithms can help solve the problem of gerrymandering in drawing political boundaries.

(12 March 2018)  Science of Upsets: Prof has formula that doubles your shot (Associated Press, Eddie Pells) appeared in numerous media outlets, both on-line and in print, including the New York Times, Washington Post, ESPN, USAToday, FoxSports, and ABC News.  See also That smarts: Buffalo makes the computer look brilliant (16 March 2017, Associated Press, Eddie Pells), NCAA tournament Winners and Loser: TruTV, Sister Jean, Thomas Jefferson and more (19 March 2018, Chicago Tribune, Teddy Greenstein, Phil Rosenthal and Tim Bannon), and Using machine learning in basketball brackets and beyond (Cisco News, Stephanie Chan).

(12 March 2018)  March Madness: Analytics are making picking winning brackets easier (USAToday, AJ Perez).


(12 March 2018)  March Madness and Bracketology: Cheryl Raye Stout vs The Machine (WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, Morning Shift with Tony Saraiba). See also Whose NCAA Bracket Did Better: Cheryl Raye Stout vs The Machine (3 April 2018, WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, Morning Shift with Tony Saraiba).


(12 March 2018) NCAA Basketball: 2018 March Madness schedule, bracket – and how to win a tournament pool as a newbie (Mic, James Dennin).


(9 March 2018)  Interview on ESPN Radio 93.5 with Sheldon H Jacobson discussing the NCAA Tournament field selection, bracket-building, and other tournament topics (Jeremy Werner Show, begins at 27:30).


(7 March 2018) March Madness Upset Prediction: New Method Using Publicly Available Statistics Outperforms Other Techniques released by the American Statistical Association, based on the paper Identifying NCAA Tournament Upsets using Balance Optimization Subset Selection,” published in Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sport  (Volume 13(2), pages 79-93.) 

(5 March 2018) Who makes the NCAA tournament? Researchers at the University of Illinois can help, based on the paper “Modeling the NCAA basketball tournament selection process using a decision tree” published in the Journal of Sports Analytics (Volume 4, pages 65-71).  See also Will your team make or miss the NCAA Tournament? New study may already have the answer (8 March 2018, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Columbus, GA, Jordan D. Hill).

(1 March 2018) If US states cannot fund their universities, they must stand aside, which appeared in Times Higher Education, discusses the plight of public research universities and offers two solutions,privatization or nationally funded consortia.  

(30 January 2018) DHS’s New Plan for Refugee Screening Looks a Lot Like TSA PreCheck (Patrick Tucker, Defense One) reports commentary by Sheldon H. Jacobson on how immigration screening can be conducted using a program modeled after TSA PreCheck©.

(22 December 2017) Experts: Atlanta blackout a lesson for other airports (David Wickert, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) reports commentary by Sheldon H. Jacobson on the vulnerabilities at airports after the Atlanta Hartsfield power outage. 

 (30 October 2017) Letter: Has the TSA spread itself too thin? which appeared in the Chicago Tribune (Voice of the People), discusses the recently implemented enhanced airport checkpoint screening procedures for food.

(23 October 2017) Letter: Build on the Readmission of Airport Travelers, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, argues that allowing non-flyers beyond the security checkpoint could provide an added incentive for enrollment in TSA Precheck©.


(18 October 2017) Mass killings happen randomly, yet rate has remained steady, study finds, based on the paper, “Random Acts of Violence? Examining Probabilistic Independence of the Temporal Distribution of Mass Murders in the United States,” which will appear in Victims and Violence.  See also Study Finds Mass Killings Not On The Rise Over Past Decade (TV Report) (Nancy Harty, CBS Chicago, 18 October 2017), Mass killings in the US happen randomly - but at a steady rate for the last 10 years, study finds (Cheyenne Macdonald, Daily Mail (UK), 18 October 2017), U.S. Mass Killings Occurring at 'Uniform' Rate, Say Scientists (Peter Hess, Inverse, 18 October 2017), Mass Killings are not Becoming More Common (John Hinderaker, Powerline, 18 October 2017), Despite Vegas and Media Narrative, Mass Killings Aren’t on the Rise “The data doesn’t lie.” (Trey Sanchez, Truth Revolt, 18 October 2017), Mass Shootings are Not on the Rise, Study Shows (S. Noble, Independent Sentinel, 18 October 2017), New Study Says Mass Murders are Not on the Rise in the U.S. (Warner Todd Huston, American News 24/7, 18 October 2017), Study finds no spike in mass killings over past decade (Nikki McGee, Fox Illinois, 18 October 2017), The One Figure You Probably Haven’t Heard About Mass Shootings (Jazz Shaw, Hot Air, 19 October 2017), Mass killings rate steady over past decade, but totally random (Seth Augenstine, Forensic Magazine, 19 October 2017),  Research Finds Mass Killings Are Not on the Rise (Police Magazine, 19 October 2017), Study: Despite More Coverage, Mass Killings Not Occurring More Often (Matt Masterson, Chicago Tonight, WTTW, 19 October 2017), U.S. Mass Killing Occurring at a ‘Uniform’ Rate (ACM Tech News, 19 October 2017), Mass killings happen randomly, yet rate has remained steady, study finds (Victoria Ritter, Gears of Biz, 20 October 2017), Study Says Mass Killings are Hard to Predict (Security Magazine, 23 October 2017), New Research Can Help First Responders (Grant Stinchfield, NRATV, 24 October 2017).


(3 October 2017) Algorithms Supercharged Gerrymandering. We Should Use Them to Fix it (Daniel Oberhaus, Motherboard) reports commentary by Sheldon H. Jacobson on his algorithm research related to political redistricting.  See also Can Algorithms Put a Stop to Political Gerrymandering? (Emily Moon, Pacific Standard, 4 October 2017).


(11 September 2017) Study: Congressional redistricting less contentious when resolved using computer algorithm,  based on the paper “The Geo-Graph in Practice: Creating United States Congressional Districts from Census Blocks,” which will appear in Combinatorial Optimization and Applications.  See also It is time to set political boundaries (Innovation Magazine, 12 September 2017), New Algorithm Makes Congressional Redistricting More Equitable to Constituents (Sioban Treacy, Electronics 360, 13 September 2017), Technology holds the key to redistricting reform (Opinion) (Jay K. Aiyer, Houston Chronicle, 3 April 2018).



Potential PhD Graduate Students

Research Opportunities in Operations Research

Secrets to Learn Before you Graduate

Prospective Graduate Students 


Visit the Media and Outreach Presentation


For a seminar on bracketology:

March Madness and Advanced Analytics: Improving Your Bracket Odds


Looking for a Ph.D. Advisor?

Zen and the Art of Hiring and Advising Graduate Students


Interested in Jacobson’s “TED-type” Talk slides?


Interested in supporting Jacobson’s research on policy, public health, societal issues, or bracketology? 

Visit Benefunder. 


Research Areas and Interests

Theory/AI Interface (Operations Research)

Advanced Analytics and Data Science (Big Data, Computational Public Health & Social Sciences, Health Informatics)

Industrial Engineering


Current Research Thrusts

Data-driven Causal Inference (BIG Data Analytics Using Discrete Optimization)

Security Screening (Data-driven Decision-making Under Uncertainty, Applied Game Theory)

Branch and Bound strategies for discrete optimization problems (Theory/AI)

Bracketology data analytics (Sports Analytics)

Infectious disease screening and quarantining strategies (Decision-making Under Uncertainty)

Obesity and transportation (Public Health Data Analytics)

Mass murder trends (Public Health Data Analytics)



Research (Peer Reviewed) Articles

Computer Simulation Methodology and Modeling

Discrete Optimization Algorithms (Exact and Approximation)

Stochastic Models, On-line Optimization, and Sequential Decision-Making

Aviation Security System Design and Analysis

Health Care Systems Engineering, Modeling, and Analysis

Immunization and Vaccine Economics

Transportation, Obesity, and Public Health

Causal Inference, Districting Problems, and Election Forecasting

Sports Analytics: NCAA Bracketology

Applications of Operations Research

Commentaries and Viewpoints


Other Publications

Book Chapters

Professional Magazines, Op-Eds, Letters

Conference Proceedings Papers


Professional Activities

Presentations, Seminars, and Posters

Sponsored Research

Dissertation, Theses, and Projects Directed

Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

Selected Media Coverage

Teaching and Service Activities


Jacobson's Web Site on the Computer Science Web Page

For more information, send a message to
He would be happy to hear from you.



Sheldon H. Jacobson, Ph.D.

201 North Goodwin Avenue (MC-258)
University of Illinois

Urbana, Illinois 61801-2302

Telephone: (217) 244-7275

Fax: (217) 244-6869

Skype: sheldon.jacobson1


Twitter: @shjanalytics  


Last updated: 1 August 2018

Counter set: 5 June 1999



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