Sheldon Howard Jacobson Ph.D.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign






Founder Professor in Computer Science

Director, Bed Time Research Institute

Director, Institute for Computational Redistricting

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

Recent CV

For the Media: Areas of Expertise

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 Statistics (College of Liberal Arts and Science)

Professor, Carle Illinois College of Medicine


Founding Director: Institute for Computational Redistricting (ICOR)

Founding Director: Bed Time Research Institute (BTRI)

Web Sites of Interest within the BTRI

1)       The 2020 Election is is in the books. Visit Election Analytics to see our results.

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

3)       March Madness 2021... What are your bracket odds? Visit Bracketodds for help with your Men’s and Women’s brackets.


Career Summary



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

2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 and earlier


(29 November 2021) “Op-Ed: Omicron is already global, tests for international flights are far better than African travel ban.” Published (with J.A. Jokela) in The Hill.

(23 November 2021) “Op-Ed: Firearm discharge at Atlanta Hartsfield exposes weak belly of airport security.” Published in The Hill.

(19 November 2021) “Op-Ed: DC drops indoor masking as Montgomery County reinstates it. Why the mandate confusion?” Published in The Hill.

(18 November 2021) “Op-Ed: Does Biden’s vaccination mandate actually need to be enforced?” Published in the Chicago Tribune.

(16 November, 2021) “Op-Ed: How voting – or choosing not to – might slow gerrymandering.” Published in The Hill.

(13 November 2021) “Commentary: Team sports require team decisions on COVID vaccination.” Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

(8 November 2021) “Op-Ed: New international travel COVID-19 rules must be simplified.” Published in The Hill.

(4 November 2021) “Op-Ed: TSA is the wrong agency to enforce the federal mask mandate at airports.” Published in the Chicago Tribune.  Numerous other newspapers also published this essay, including the Miami Herald, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Richmond Times Dispatch, Arizona Daily Sun.

(3 November 2021) “Op-Ed: Airlines say weather cancelled flights.  No, concerns about the vaccine mandate did.” Published in the Indianapolis Star.

(2 November 2021) “Op-Ed: Upcoming holiday presents an opportunity to help the unvaccinated.” Published in The Hill.

(31 October 2021) “Opinion: Why remap Illinois when the redrawn map is even worse?” Published in the Chicago Daily Herald.

(26 October 2021) “My Turn: Instead of gerrymandering, let’s call it ‘illini-mandering’.” Published in the Champaign News Gazette.

(25 October 2021) “Op-Ed: The next vaccine exemption debate: ‘My child, my choice’.” Published in The Hill.

(21 October 2021) “Op-Ed: Should flyers feel safer when the TSA finds more firearms at airport security checkpoints?” Published in the Chicago Tribune.  See also Miami Herald.

(18 October 2021) “Op-Ed: Southwest Arline debacle is symptomatic of bigger pandemic problems.” Published in The Hill.

(12 October 2021, Editorial, Saltwire Network) “Thank you, Carey Price, for netminding mental health.” quotes from Jacobson’s opinion in the Montreal Gazette. 

(12 October 2021) “Op-Ed: The truth about COVID-19 vaccine exemptions.” Published in The Hill.

(11 October 2021) “Commentary: NHL teams exercising power of choice on vaccinations.” Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

(10 October 2021) “Opinion: Carey Price and the perils of the professional hockey player.” Published in the Montreal Gazette.

(6 October 2021) “Opinion: Severity of flu season’s up in the air.” Published in the Atlanta Constitution Journal.

(4 October 2021) “Op-Ed: From pandemic to endemic, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing.” Published in The Hill.

(4 October 2021) “Opinion: Why should airline pilots be exempt from the vaccine requirement?” Published in the Chicago Tribune. See also the Miami Herald.

(28 September 2021) “Opinion: CDC needs to give us  better CDC data on breakthrough COVID-19 infections.” Published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

(28 September 2021, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Lara Farrar) “Double Doozie: Doctors brace for impending flu season, dual outbreaks of covid, influenza” quotes Jacobson on the upcoming seasonal influenza and its potential severity.

(22 September 2021) “Op-Ed: Requiring vaccination proof isn’t the problem.  Making sure it’s reliable can be.” Published in the Indianapolis Star.

(20 September 2021) “Op-Ed: No free lunch for an individual’s freedom to choose.” Published in The Hill.

(13 September 2021) “Op-Ed: Vaccine resistant people are easy targets to exploit.” Published in The Hill.

(8 September 2021) “Opinion: The NHL provides a playbook on vaccinations, minus a mandate.” Published in the Montreal Gazette.

(8 September 2021) “Opinion: How airport security changed and how it must change again.” Published in the Chicago Tribune.

(7 September 2021) “Commentary: Delta variant is having its way with air travel.  What can help turn it around?” Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

(6 September 2021) “Op-Ed: COVID-19 vaccine exemptions make no sense.” Published in The Hill.

 (30 August 2021, Salt Lake City Tribune, Robert Gehrke) “Software can prevent gerrymandering, but will Utah use it?” quotes Jacobson on how computational redistricting can be used to expose gerrymandering.

(25 August 2021) “Op-Ed: Vaccination mandates are symptomatic of bigger problems in America.” Published in The Hill.

(25 August 2021) “Op-Ed: Want to keep college students safer from COVID this fall?  Think like the TSA.” Published (with J.A. Jokela) in the Indianapolis Star.

(18 August 2021) “Op-Ed: Two steps colleges should take to reopen safely this month.” Published (with J.A. Jokela) in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

 (16 August 2021) “Op-Ed: Time is ripe for computational redistricting to expose gerrymandering.” Published in The Hill.

(13 August 2021, CBS News Market Watch, Megan Cerullo) “Unvaccinated workers could end up paying $50 more for health insurance – per paycheck” quotes Jacobson on how unvaccinated pay may pay higher health insurance premiums than those vaccinated.

(12 August 2021, US News, Josh Moody) “Colleges requiring a Coronavirus Vaccine for Fall” quotes Jacobson on how colleges will manage COVID-19 and vaccination requirements on campus this Fall.

(12 August 2021) “Emotion is a big part of how you assess risk – and why it’s so hard to be objective about pandemic precautions.” Published in The Conversation. This article also appeared in several media outlets, including Houston Chronicle, Connecticut Post, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

(11 August 2021) “Op-Ed: Paying a price for choosing not to be vaccinated.” Published in The Hill.

(9 August 2021) “Op-Ed: Every COVID infection is an opportunity for virus mutation.  We can reduce the risk.” Published in the Indianapolis Star.

(3 August 2021) “Op-Ed: Data will not bridge the COVID-19 vaccine political abyss.” Published in The Hill.

(2 August 2021) “New endorsement laws could create pitfalls for college athletes.” Published in The Conversation.

(2 August 2021) “Commentary: TSA must mandate COVID-19 vaccines for airport security screeners.” Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

(29 July 2021) “Insights: Technology may solve election disputes.” Published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

(29 July 2021, Scripps Washington Bureau, Maya Rodriguez) “Researchers examining spike in deaths that were not COVID-related” featured research on non-COVID-19 deaths.

(28 July 2021) “Op-Ed: Death statistics make a powerful case for wider vaccinations.” Published (with J.A. Jokela) in The Hill.

(22 July 2021) “Op-Ed: Manage virus transmission risk like the TSA manages passenger risk.” Published in The Hill.

(22 July 2021) “Op-Ed: How students can solve campus COVID-19 risk problems if colleges won’t mandate vaccinations.” Published (with J.A Jokela) in the Indianapolis Star.

(19 July 2021, University of Illinois News Bureau) “2020 deadlier than previous five years, even with COVID-19 numbers removed, study finds,” features research by Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela on increases in excess non-COVID-19 deaths, published in Health Care Management Science.

·        (19 July 2021, WSIU Public Radio, Springfield, IL) “U of I Study Finds 2020 Deadlier Than Previous five Years, Even with COVID-19 Numbers Removed.”  See also Vandalia Radio (Erica Foltz), Southern Illinois Now (WJBD FM92.1, Alex Wellen).

·        (20 July 2021, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL, Lyndsay Jones) “Watch Now: Deaths were up in the U.S., and McLean County, in 2020. Researchers hope to draw attention to reasons other than COVID.

·        (23 July 2021, The Center Square, Scot Bertram) “Research shows deaths spiked early in pandemic, but COVID-19 wasn’t only cause.”

·        (26 July 2021, WJPF Morning Newswatch, Carbondale, IL, Tom Miller) Interview with Jacobson.

·        (27 July 2021, HealthDay) “Deaths up in 2020, even when accounting for COVID-19”.

 (17 July 2021) “Commentary: FAA weighing in on weighing air travelers.” Published in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

(13 July 2021) “Opinion: College athlete revenue laws could backfire.” Published in the Detroit News.

(12 July 2021, Off the Wall, 1490 AM, The Score, Joey Keeran) featured Jacobson (from 20:52 to 33:21) as their guest discussing the unintended consequences of NCAA NIL (names, images, and likeness) policies.

(10 July 2021, The Michael Finney Show, KGO-AM 810, San Francisco, CA)  Beware of Travel Scams” features Jacobson discussing how travel scams are the latest cyber security threats.

(9 July 2021, KMBC ABC9, Kansas City, MO, Alan Shope) “Professor: Bring COVD-19 vaccine to tailgaters during football season” quotes Jacobson on the value of bringing vaccination opportunities to football games.

(8 July 2021) “Colleges and COVID: The right way to protect students, professors and the rest of us.” Published (with J.A. Jokela) in the New York Daily News.

(8 July 2021) “Op-Ed: Data should dictate voting rights.” Published in The Hill.

(6 July 2021, WLS-890AM Radio, The Bruce St. James Show) “Will airports become a hotspot of the COVID-19 Delta variant” featured Jacobson as a guest.

(2 July 2021) “Op-Ed: Airport security COVID-19 recommendations miss the mark as variant surges.” Published in Cleveland Plain Dealer

(1 July 2021) “Op-Ed: Here’s why natural COVID-19 immunity pales compared to vaccination.” Published in the Indianapolis Star.

(1 July 2021) “Op-Ed: Gerrymandering and restricting voting rights: Flip sides of the same coin.” Published in The Hill.

(17 June 2021) “Op-Ed: How breakthrough infection rates for vaccines will make a difference.” Published in The Hill.

(16 June 2021) “Op-Ed: It’s not just anti-vaxxers.  Here’s what the FDA can do to get more shots in arms.” Published in the Indianapolis Star.

(14 June 2021) “Op-Ed: In-person academic conferences must resume this autumn.” Published in Times Higher Education.

(10 June 2021, Washington Times, Andy Kostka) “Public health experts: Olympics can be held safely, if changes are made.” quotes Jacobson on how the 2021 Tokyo Olympics can be held with the threat of COVID-19.

(10 June 2021) “Op-Ed: Are the recent cyberattacks just the tip of  the iceberg?” Published in The Hill.

(7 June 2021) “Opinion: Take it from Golfer Jon Rahm, not being vaccinated can be costly.” Published in Columbus Dispatch.

(2 June 2021) “Op-Ed: What it will take to host the 2021 Summer Olympics.” Published in The Hill.

(26 May 2021) “Op-Ed: Why it’s impossible to predict mass shootings like San Jose.” Published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

(26 May 2021, Christianity Daily, Sarah Mae Saliong) “Protesters Troop to Rutgers University to Rally Against Mandatory COVID Vaccines.” quotes Jacobson on the benefits of mandatory coronavirus vaccines for college students.

(25 May 2021) “Op-Ed: The government is not asking you to be a vaccine guinea pig.” Published in The Hill.

(19 May 2021, US News, Joshua Moody) “Colleges Requiring a Coronavirus Vaccine for Fall.” quotes Jacobson on the benefits of mandatory coronavirus vaccines for college students.

(18 May 2021) “Op-Ed: The important role that data scientists have in defeating COVID vaccine skepticism.” Published in the Indianapolis Star.

(13 May 2021) “Op-Ed: Require COVID vaccines for all Illinois public college students.” Published (with J.A. Jokela) in the Chicago Tribune.

(12 May 2021, Business Travel News, Dawit Habtemariam) “Suppliers Say Staffing Shortages Dragging Recovery.” quotes Jacobson on how labor shortages are challenging the travel industry’s recovery.

(5 May 2021) “Op-Ed: Why we need vaccine passports, and why they’ll never happen.” Published in Crain’s Chicago Business. See also Daily News Chicago (Marita Overfelt).

(4 May 2021, WNEP16 ABC, Scranton, PA, Sarah, Buynovsky) “Back to work, back in buildings.” quotes Jacobson on how companies will reopen for their employees and keep everyone safe.

(22 April 2021) “Op-Ed: What’s an ideal fix for Illinois gerrymandering? An algorithmic approach.” Published in the Chicago Tribune.

(13 April 2021) “Op-Ed: Do college campuses still need COVID-19 surveillance testing?” Published in The Hill.

(12 April 2021, KCBS Radio, San Francisco, CA) “Ask an Expert with Stan Burger” features Jacobson on how businesses are getting employees back to work

(8 April 2021) “Op-Ed: Here’s why America’s COVID-19 immunization depends on college campuses.” Published (with J.A. Jokela) in the Indianapolis Star.

(6 April 2021, KMBC-TV9 ABC, Kansas City, MO, Alan Shope) “Researchers believe the office is going to look different when employees return” interviewed Jacobson on how businesses will adjust when employees return to working on-site.

(1 April 2021) “Op-Ed: The greatest threat to our democracy does not reside in the White House.” Published by Jacobson in The Hill.

(31 March 2021) “Op-Ed: One U.S. airline is keeping middle seats open.  Here’s what science says about it.” Published in the Indianapolis Star. Also appeared in USA Today on 4 April 2021.

(24 March 2021, Eureka Alert, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) “New Research finds seating assignments on airplanes can reduce the spread of COVID-19” based on a paper that appeared in Service Sciences. See also

·        (24 March 2021, FOX 32 TV Chicago, Anthony Ponce) “New research could make air travel safer amid pandemic.”

·        (31 March 2021, WGN 720 Radio, Chicago, IL , Anna Davlantes) “Does blocking the middle seat on airplanes make passengers safer?       

(21 March 2021, City Journal, John Tierney) “Death and Lockdowns” quotes Jacobson on non-COVID-19 excess deaths in the United States.

(3 March 2021, University of Illinois Computer Science, Aaron Seidlitz) “Jacobson’s Bracketodds research takes the madness out of March” discusses the research behind the Bracketodds web site. See also

·        (16 March 2021, 247 Sports, Jeremy Werner) “Podcast Episode 242, The Winning Formula” speaks with Jacobson discussing the analytics of picking winning brackets.

·        (16 March 2021, Fox 32-TV Chicago) “Bracket Expert gives advice ahead of March Madness”speaks with Jacobson on trends in picking winning brackets.

·        (17 March 2021, ABC 7-TV, Chicago, IL)

·        (17 March 2021, WGN 720 Radio, Anna Davlantes, Chicago, IL) “Taking the madness out of your NCAA bracket” speaks with Jacobson about the analytics in March Madness.

·        (18 March 2021, WLS 890 Radio, Bruce St. James Show, Chicago, IL) speaks with Jacobson about March Madness and bracketology.

(20 February 2021, Saturday Sports Talk with Steve Kelly and Loren Tate, WDWS AM1400, Champaign, IL) Jacobson was a guest discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the upcoming NCAA Men’s basketball tournament.

(1 February 2021, The Telegraph, Ed Grenby) “’COVID mindset’ blamed as gun seizures at US airports doubles,” quotes Jacobson on the cause of higher firearm catch rates by the TSA at airports.


Potential PhD Graduate Students

Research Opportunities in Operations Research

Secrets to Learn Before you Graduate

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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, Game Theory)

Algorithmic Political Districting (Graph Theory, Artificial Intelligence)

Branch and Bound Strategies for discrete optimization problems (Theory/Artificial Intelligence)

Bracketology Data Analytics (Sports Analytics)

Infectious Disease Screening and quarantining strategies (Decision-making Under Uncertainty)

Obesity, Energy, and Transportation (Public Health Data Analytics)

Mass Murder and Violence Trends in Society (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: 2 December 2021

First Posted: 5 June 1999


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