Sheldon H. Jacobson

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Sheldon H. Jacobson
Alma materMcGill University, Cornell University
AwardsINFORMS Fellow, IISE Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, IISE Award for Technical Innovation in Industrial Engineering, IISE David F. Baker Distinguished Research Award, INFORMS Impact Prize
Scientific career
FieldsOperations Research, Computer Science, Industrial Engineering
InstitutionsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Virginia Tech, Case Western Reserve University
Doctoral advisorLee W. Schruben

Sheldon H. Jacobson is an American educator, noted for contributions that apply operations research to problems related to aviation security, public health, Presidential election forecasting, and NCAA basketball. He holds the position of Founder Professor of Engineering in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[1]


Jacobson received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in mathematics from McGill University (in 1981 and 1983, respectively),[2] and both a M.S. and a Ph.D. in operations research from Cornell University (in 1986 and 1988,[3] respectively). Subsequently, he joined the faculty of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in 1988, and then the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech in 1993. In 1999, he joined the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, moving to the Department of Computer Science in 2006. From 2012 to 2014, he served as the Program Director for Operations Research at the National Science Foundation.[4] He has served on the National Research Council's Committee on Airport Passenger Screening: Backscatter X-Ray Machines (2013-2015)[5] and the National Academy of Medicine's Standing Committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Strategic National Stockpile (2015-2017).

Aviation Research[edit]

In 1995, Jacobson and John E. Kobza authored the first paper demonstrating how operations research models could be used to optimize the performance of aviation security systems.[6] They co-led the first study analyzing the costs and benefits of 100% checked baggage screening.[7] Jacobson also designed and analyzed a class of multi-level passenger prescreening models to optimize the performance of aviation passenger and baggage security operations using a risk-based paradigm.[8] This research, funded by the National Science Foundation,[9] served as a precursor for risk-based aviation security policies (including the Transportation Security Administration's PreCheck program) that are now used at commercial airports throughout the United States.[10] This research was recognized with the 2018 INFORMS Impact Prize for its contributions to risk-based security in aviation security and its influence on TSA PreCheck. [11][12] During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in the United States, Jacobson argued that risk-based security screening concepts could also be applied to the health threat.[13][14] After the 2016 Atatürk Airport attack in Istanbul, Turkey, Jacobson contended that decreasing pressure on checkpoints inside airports is essential, advocating for more enrollment in expedited screening such as TSA PreCheck.[15] In late 2016, he published a study[16] showing that waiving the $85 TSA PreCheck fee would result in a net savings of $34 million due to reduced screening costs.[17]

Public Health Research[edit]

Jacobson was one of the first researchers to apply operations research models to public health problems.[18] His contributions focused on the design and optimization of pediatric vaccine formularies, with implications on pediatric vaccine formulary design,[19] pediatric vaccine pricing (particularly combination vaccines),[20] and pediatric vaccine stockpiling to mitigate shortages.[21] Jacobson’s research on the relationship between obesity, fuel consumption, and transportation established the first association between a public health problem and how the built environment may have unexpected, deleterious societal consequences, in this case, costing over a billion extra gallons of gasoline each year.[22][23][24]


Jacobson spearheaded the launch of three web sites which showcase data analytics applied to issues of broad interest. Election Analytics provides forecasts for the United States Presidential and Senate elections. Its model correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states in both the 2008 and 2012 elections.[25] In 2016, while a Donald Trump victory was one of 21 scenarios forecast by the site,[26] its "neutral" analysis gave Hillary Clinton a 99.2% chance to win on the morning of election day.[27] BracketOdds provides an analytics perspective on March Madness, with appearances in national media coverage including the Chicago Tribune,[28],[29] Bleacher Report,[30] and Men's Health.[31] Driving Obesity provides a tool for individuals to compare their BMI to national averages based on their driving habits. Jacobson has written op-eds on issues related to airport security and screening that have appeared in The Washington Post,[13] CNN Opinion,[32] and Quartz.[33]

Awards and honors[edit]

Jacobson is a Fellow of INFORMS[34] and the IISE.[35][36] He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003.[37] He is a two-time winner of the IISE Award for Technical Innovation in Industrial Engineering, in 2010[38] and again in 2013.[39] His research video, "Aviation Security: Researching the Risk," garnered WILL-TV an Award of Excellence for the "College or University" and "Video News Release" categories in the 2006 Communicator Awards.[40] In 2013, Jacobson received the Media Relations Award for Communications & Marketing Excellence from the University of Illinois Office of Public Affairs for "showcasing how computer science and data analysis can be put to practical use in a way that the news media and general public understand."[41] In 2017, he was awarded the IISE David F. Baker Distinguished Research Award for his lifetime research contributions in the field of Industrial Engineering.[42] In 2018, Jacobson was part of a team that was awarded the INFORMS Impact Prize for their research contributions to risk-based security in aviation security and its influence on TSA PreCheck.[11][12]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Sheldon Howard Jacobson". Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  2. ^ "Alumni Quarterly - Winter 2008". McGill University. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  3. ^ "Sheldon Jacobson Ph.D. '88 Urges the Operations Research Profession to Embrace Information Engineering". School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, Cornell University. September 19, 2011. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Jacobson, Sheldon (October 2014). "Confessions of a NSF Program Director". ORMS Today. "INFORMS". Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  5. ^ "Committee Membership Information". National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  6. ^ Kobza, John E.; Jacobson, Sheldon H. (December 1996). "Addressing the Dependency Problem in Access Security System Architecture Design". Risk Analysis. 16 (6): 801–812. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.1996.tb00831.x.
  7. ^ Virta, Julie E.; Jacobson, Sheldon H.; Kobza, John E. (September 12, 2003). "Analyzing the Cost of Screening Selectee and Non-Selectee Baggage". Risk Analysis. 23 (5): 897–908. doi:10.1111/1539-6924.00367.
  8. ^ McLay, Laura A.; Jacobson, Sheldon; Kobza, John E. (February 6, 2006). "A Multilevel Passenger Screening Problem for Aviation Security". Naval Research Logistics. 53 (5): 183–197. doi:10.1002/nav.20131.
  9. ^ "Collaborative Research: Aviation Access Control Security Systems". National Science Foundation. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  10. ^ Tucker, Patrick (June 10, 2006). "How Not to Fix Airport Screening". Defense One. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Impact Prize - Informs". INFORMS. March 22, 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Jacobson Recognized for Research that Transformed Passenger Screening after 2001 Attacks". Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. November 12, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2019.
  13. ^ a b Jacobson, Sheldon H. (October 2, 2014). "Airports should be screening for Ebola the same way they screen for terrorists". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  14. ^ "A Manhattan Project against Ebola". Chicago Tribune. October 7, 2014. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  15. ^ Tucker, Patrick (June 30, 2016). "After Istanbul, Here's How Airport Experts Want to Protect You at the Curbside". Defense One. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  16. ^ Jacobson, Sheldon H.; Khatibi, Arash; Yu, Ge (November 26, 2016). "When should TSA PreCheck be offered at no cost to travelers?". Journal of Transportation Security. 9 (3–4): 1–7. doi:10.1007/s12198-016-0176-z.
  17. ^ Wisniewski, Mary (December 5, 2016). "Making airport PreCheck free could save TSA millions: report". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  18. ^ Weniger, Bruce G.; Chen, Robert T.; Jacobson, Sheldon H.; Sewell, Edward C.; Deuseon, Robert; Livengood, John R.; Orenstein, Walter A. (November 1998). "Addressing the Challenges to Immunization Practice with an Economic Algorithm for Vaccine Selection". Vaccine. 16 (19): 1885–1897. doi:10.1016/S0264-410X(98)00170-4.
  19. ^ Jacobson, Sheldon H.; Sewell, Edward C.; Deuson, Robert; Weniger, Bruce G. (1999). "An Integer Programming Model for Vaccine Procurement and Delivery for Childhood Immunization: A Pilot Study". Health Care Management Science. 2 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1023/A:1019011106198.
  20. ^ Sheldon H., Jacobson; Karnani, Tamana; Sewell, Edward C. (May 16, 2003). "Analyzing the economic value of the hepatitis B—Haemophilus influenzae type B combination vaccine by reverse engineering a formulary selection algorithm". Vaccine. 21 (17–18): 2169–2177. doi:10.1016/S0264-410X(02)00735-1.
  21. ^ Jacobson, Sheldon H.; Sewell, Edward C.; Proano, Ruben A.; Jokela, Janet A. (April 24, 2006). "Stockpile Levels for Pediatric Vaccines: How Much is Enough?". Vaccine. 24 (17): 3530–3537. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2006.02.004.
  22. ^ Jacobson, Sheldon H.; McLay, Laura A. (December 8, 2006). "The Economic Impact of Obesity on Automobile Fuel Consumption". The Engineering Economist. 51 (4): 307–323. doi:10.1080/00137910600987586.
  23. ^ Jacobson, Sheldon H.; King, Douglas M.; Yuan, Rong (2011). "A Note on the Relationship Between Obesity and Driving". Transport Policy. 18 (6): 772–776. doi:10.1016/j.tranpol.2011.03.008.
  24. ^ Kolata, Gina (October 29, 2006). "For a World of Woes, We Blame Cookie Monsters". The New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  25. ^ Dallke, Jim (October 10, 2016). "Donald Trump Has a 0% Chance of Winning the Election, According to U of I Computer Scientists". Chicago Inno. Streetwise Media. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  26. ^ Wurth, Julie (November 9, 2016). "UI pollster: 'Once in a lifetime' upset". The News Gazette. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  27. ^ Dallke, Jim (November 9, 2016). "This U of I Election Forecast Had Clinton's Chances at 100%. What Went Wrong?". Chicago Inno. Streetwise Media. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  28. ^ Huppke, Rex W. (March 12, 2012). "Hoops + = winners?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  29. ^ Niiler, Eric (March 15, 2012). "March Madness bracketology: The science". Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  30. ^ "Crunching the Numbers to Reveal Biggest Potential Upsets in the West Region". Bleacher Report. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  31. ^ Markham, Heid (March 13, 2016). "The Proven Way to Pick a Successful March Madness Bracket". Men's Health. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  32. ^ "How secure are our airports?". Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  33. ^ "After Brussels, simply adding extra airport security won't keep travelers safe". Quartz. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  34. ^ "INFORMS Fellows: Class of 2013". INFORMS. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  35. ^ "Industrial Engineer, Vol. 43, No. 6, June 2011". IISE. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  36. ^ "Sheldon Jacobson Named Fellow of IIE". Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  37. ^ "Sheldon H. Jacobson". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  38. ^ "2010 Honors and Awards". IISE. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  39. ^ "Industrial Engineer, Vol. 45, No. 6, June 2013". IISE. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  40. ^ "The 13th Annual Communicator Awards: 2006 Awards Competition". Archived from the original on February 18, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  41. ^ "Public Affairs ACME Awards 2013". University of Illinois Office of Public Affairs. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  42. ^ "Baker Award recognizes breadth and impact of Jacobson's research". Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved September 11, 2017.