Sheldon M. Ross

April 30, 1943

Brief Biography

Sheldon Ross Fellow Portrait

Sheldon M. Ross is a prolific author whose textbooks have had a profound influence on the growth and accessibility of operations research education. He received the Saul Gass Expository Writing Award from the Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences for a body of written works spanning over three decades. Ross is also celebrated for his fundamental research in dynamic programming, reliability, queuing, simulation, and other areas of applied probability.

Born in Brooklyn, Ross studied at Brooklyn College and Purdue University before receiving his PhD from Stanford University under Gerald Lieberman and Cyrus Derman in 1968, going through with a cohort of students that made up one of the university’s earliest groups of operations research graduates. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley during which time he published the majority of his works. His works clearly define and motivate topics, present relevant theory, and provide numerous elegant examples. Through his publications, Ross has influenced how the topics of stochastic modeling and statistics are taught in universities around the globe as his texts are tailored for undergraduate and graduate readership alike. Ross's books have served as the introductory foundations that have inspired numerous promising careers in the discipline and are often treasured as essential references.

In 1978, Ross proposed the so-called “Ross’s Conjecture” of queuing theory. He conjectured that customers arriving independently but at an average rate that varies over time will experience higher average waiting times than customers in a comparable queue for which the average arrival rate remains unchanged over time, and provided a lower bound  for their average waiting time.  It was solved three years later by Tomasz Rolski at Poland’s Wroclaw University.

Ross joined the faculty at the University of Southern California in 2004 and has remained an active writer. Many of his original texts have been revised and republished several times, with some currently circulating in their eighth and ninth editions. Ross also serves as the editor for Probability in the Engineering and Informational Sciences, an advisory editor for International Journal of Quality Technology and Quantitative Management, and an Editorial Board Member of the Journal of Bond Trading and Management. 

Other Biographies

University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering. People: Sheldon M. Ross. Accessed March 17, 2015. (link)


Brooklyn College, BS 1963

Purdue University, MS 1964

Stanford University, PhD 1968 (Mathematics Genealogy


Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Sheldon Ross (2015) Interview by Steven Lippman, December 17, 2015.  Video by Manuel Burgos, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

NOTE:  The video chapter transcripts below are searchable, with search results displayed as marks on the time bar above the search box.  Click a mark to jump to the search word or phrase in the video and transcript, or click on any word in the transcript to jump to that point in the video.

Jump to Chapters

Chapter 1: Growing Up in Brooklyn (with Bernie Sanders)
Chapter 2: Choosing Brooklyn College
Chapter 3: Discovering Graduate School
Chapter 4: Moving to Stanford, in Statistics
Chapter 5: Meeting Jerry Lieberman
Chapter 6: The Sequential Assignment Problem
Chapter 7: From Berkeley to USC
Chapter 8: Exceptional Students
Chapter 9: Choosing Research Areas
Chapter 10: Publishing Textbooks
Chapter 11: On Productivity
Chapter 12: Looking Ahead: Advice for Graduate Students

Awards and Honors

Saul Gass Expository Writing Award 2006

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2013

Selected Publications

Ross S. M. (1970) Applied Probability Models with Optimization Applications. Holden-Day: San Francisco, CA.

Ross S. M. (1972) Introduction to Probability Models. Academic Press: Waltham, MA.

Ross S. M. (1976) A First Course in Probability. MacMillan Publishing Company: London.

Ross S. M. (1982) Stochastic Processes. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Ross S. M. (1983) Introduction to Stochastic Dynamic Programming. Academic Press: Waltham, MA.

Ross S. M. (1995) Introductory Statistics. Academic Press: Waltham, MA.

Ross S. M. (1996) Simulation. Academic Press: Waltham, MA.

Derman C. & Ross S. M. (1997) Statistical Aspects of Quality Control. Academic Press: Waltham, MA.

Ross S. M. (1999) An Elementary Introduction to Mathematical Finance: Options and Other Topics. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Ross S. M. (2000)Topics in Finite and Discrete Mathematics. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Ross S. M. (2001) Probability Models for Computer Science. Academic Press: Waltham, MA.