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


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

(6 April 2021, The New American, Annalisa Pesek) “Reopening Schools: Are Parents Doing their Homework?” quotes Jacobson on non-COVID-19 excess deaths.

(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 by Jacobson 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

·        (24 March 2021, News-Medical Life Sciences) “Seating assignments on airplanes can limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission

·        (25 March 2021, Economic Times (Healthworld) “Seating assignments on airplanes can reduce spread of Covid-19, finds research

·        (28 March 2021, Business Standard) “Social distancing in flight seat assignment can reduce Covid-19 spread

·        (30 March 2021, Corporate Travel Community) “IATA has highlighted aircraft cabins are low-risk for virus spread, now new academic research concurs seating assignments on aircraft can limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission

·        (30 March 2021, Contagion Live (Infectious Diseases Today), Jared Kaltwasser) “New modeling suggests optimal airplane seating to limit COVID-19 transmission

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

(22 March 2021) “ Op-Ed: Having vaccinated people on airplanes makes sense ” Published by Jacobson in The Hill.

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

(19 March 2021, WCIA3 TV, Abigail Metsch, Champaign, IL) “Website founded by U of I professor helps find ‘Bracket Odds’

(15 March 2021) “Op-Ed: Our nation needs March Madness,” Published by Jacobson in The Hill.

(11 March 2021, Chicago Tribune, Joe Mahr) “During pandemic, Illinois saw 27% jump in deaths, amongst worst in the US. One reason: There were two waves.” Quotes Jacobson in excess deaths due to COVID-19.

(10 March 2021, Front Office Sports, Amanda Christovich) “Will the March Madness semi-bubble really be safe?” quotes Jacobson on the COVID-19 safety protocols in place during March Madness.

(10 March 2021) “ Op-Ed: NCAA COVID-19 Policy Demands Selective Reseeding for March Madness ” Published by Jacobson in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

(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.

·        (18 March 2021, Study Finds, Ben Renner) “Win your March Madness bracket by filling out your Final Four first

(1 March 2021) “Op-Ed: How do we know if the COVID-19 vaccines are working?” Published by Jacobson and J.A. Jokela in The Hill.

(22 February 2021) “Op-Ed: Testing international travelers for COVID-19 is a bad idea,” Published by Jacobson in The Hill. See also Daily New York Times (Jon Anderson).

(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.

(14 February 2021) “Op-Ed; How the pandemic could affect NCAA Selection Sunday seedings,” Published by Jacobson in Indianapolis Star.

(12 February 2021) “Op-Ed: Mask mandate on airplanes: Right idea with wrong implementation,” Published by Jacobson in The Hill.

(10 February 2021, Front Office Sports, Amanda Christovich)  “College stadiums’ role in vaccine distribution” quotes Jacobson on issues related to using sports stadiums for COVID-19 vaccination.

(4 February 2021) “Op-Ed: Excuse against taking COVID-19 vaccine don’t add up,” Published by Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela in The Hill.

(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.

(31 January 2021, Champaign News Gazette, Matt Daniels) ”Diving into Bracket Talk for the Illini” provides commentary by Jacobson on college basketball, March Madness, and the Illini.

(28 January 2021, Reset, WBEZ Public Radio Chicago, IL) “Closing the gap on vaccine access (Part 4)” interviewed Jacobson on the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain.

(27 January 2021, The Daily New York News) “Rising Infections make the principles for Touring Within the New York Space Tough,” quotes Jacobson on state travel ban to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

(27 January 2021, Simple Flying, Andrew Curran) “TSA Firearms Finds Reach Record Levels Despite Travel Slowdown,” quotes Jacobson on TSA reporting higher catch rate for firearms at security checkpoints. See also “TSA Firearm Detection Rate Doubled in 2020 – But Why?” (Homeland Security Today, Kylie Bielby)

(27 January 2021) “Op-Ed: Here is the hidden cost of the NCAA’s pandemic-driven extension of athlete eligibility,” Published by Jacobson in the Indianapolis Star.   

 (26 January 2021) “Op-Ed: Risk-based analytics can breakdown COVID-19 vaccination bottlenecks,” Published by Jacobson in The Hill.

(20 January 2021) “Op-Ed: Don’t put smokers toward the front of the vaccination line,” Published by Jacobson in the New York Daily News.

(19 January 2021) “Op-Ed: With vaccine limitations, will COVID-19 hamstring Biden?” Published by Jacobson in The Hill.

(12 January 2021) “Op-Ed: The State of COVID-19 in the State of Illinois,” Published by Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela in the Champaign News Gazette.

(11 January 2021) “Op-Ed: COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Chain Can be Fixed,” Published by Jacobson in The Hill.

(10 January 2021) “Op-Ed: Airport Security Checkpoints are Nation’s COVID-19 Canary,” Published by Jacobson and J.A. Jokela in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

(28 December 2020) “Op-Ed: Looking toward a post-vaccine COVID-19 America,” Published by Jacobson and J.A. Jokela in the Detroit News.

(21 December 2020) “Op-Ed: Airport security checkpoints are a COVID-19 war zone,” Published by Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

(15 December 2020, US News and World Report, Josh Moody) “Coronavirus and the College Experience This Spring,” quotes Jacobson on the challenges in higher education during the Spring 2021 semester. See also WTOP (Washington, DC).

(14 December 2020) “Op-Ed: What will spring 2021 semester look like?” Published by Jacobson and J.A. Jokela in Newsday.

(13 December 2020) “Op-Ed: Effective Treatments, not Vaccines, are Light at End of COVID-19 Tunnel,” Published by Jacobson in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

(30 November 2020, WTTW News (Chicago Public Television, Amanda Vinicky) “Study Finds Rise in US Deaths Beyond COVID-19 in 2020,” reports on Jacobson’s research on excess Non-COVID-19 deaths.

(17 November 2020, University of Illinois News Bureau) “Study of non-COVID-19 deaths shows 2020 increase in several demographics,” features research by Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela on increases in non-COVID-19 deaths, published in Public Health.

·        (19 November 2020, New York Daily News, Theresa Braine) “More people are dying in the U.S. this year than last year, even without COVID: studies

·        (24 November 2020, Health Day) “Non-COVID-19 Related Deaths Up, Too

·        (27 November 2020, Illinois News Room, Christine Herman) “More people are Dying During the Pandemic – and Not Just from COVID, U of I Researchers Find

(9 November 2020, New York Times, Shawn Hubler) “Thanksgiving Will Soon Empty Campuses. Will Students Bring Coronavirus Home?” quotes Jacobson on the risk of students departing college campuses for the holiday break.

(30 October 2020) “Op-Ed: Schools have the tools to evaluate the threat to college sports,” Published by Jacobson in the Columbus Dispatch.

(28 October 2020, Associated Press, Dave Collins) “Rising infections complicate rules for New York-area travel” quotes Jacobson on Covid-19 state travel restrictions.

(26 October 2020, NPR Marketplace Tech, Molly Wood) “Is the pandemic an opportunity for more personalized learning?” features Jacobson on the future of artificial intelligence for personalized learning.

(29 September 2020, New York Times, Janet Morrissey) “Using Technology to Tailor Lessons to Each Student” quotes Jacobson on the value of technology-driven personalized learning.

(23 September 2020) “Commentary: Rural Illinois must embrace CDC guidelines and more testing for  COVID-19,” Published by Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela in the Chicago Tribune.

(18 September 2020, Good Morning America, ABC Network, Gio Benitez) “Last minute deals entice travelers” quotes Jacobson on the challenges of social distancing on airplanes.

(16 September 2020. Chicago Tribune, John Kielman) “As other states play high school football, Pritzker says COVID-19 makes the sport still too risky for Illinois” quotes Jacobson on the risks of playing college.

(6 September 2020) “Op-Ed: For maximum Covid compliance, build bridges with students, not barriers Published by Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela in the Times Higher Education.

(30 August 2020) “Commentary: Partnership, not punishment, is the key to keeping colleges open” Published by Jacobson and Janet A. Jokela in the Times of Northwest Indiana. 

(29 August, Fortune, Lee Clifford) “One university may have the best COVID testing operation in the U.S. – and tests students twice a week” references statistics reported in the Chicago Sun Times op-ed by Jacobson and Jokela. 

(11 August 2020) “Research finds TSA may have missed thousands of firearms at checkpoints in 2014-2016. Recent TSA reports support such findings” press release issued by INFORMS, based on research published by Jacobson in the INFORMS Journal of Applied Analytics. See also

·        (David Shaper, National Public Radio, 11 August 2020) “TSA Finds 3 Times Usual Rate Of Guns At Checkpoints, Despite Drop In Air Traffic”

·        (Robert Silk, Travel Weekly, 11 August 2020) “TSA says guns found in carry-ons tripled in July

 (10 July 2020, NPR Illinois: Morning Edition) “Statewide: College towns and the Coronavirus” Jacobson comments on the town-gown divide and how universities are bringing students back in the fall in the midst of the Covid—19 pandemic (from 17:50 to 25:00).


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, 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: 22 April 2021

First Posted: 5 June 1999