Christine A. Shoemaker

July 2, 1944

Brief Biography

Shoemaker Fellow Portrait

Christine Shoemaker is a leading figure in employing optimization, modeling, and statistical analysis to environmental issues and water resource management. As an undergraduate, she studied mathematics at the University of California, Davis. After a year abroad at the University of Göttingen in Germany, Shoemaker became more socially conscious, protesting the Vietnam War as an upperclassman. She continued to pursue math and received a PhD under Richard Bellman at the University of Southern California. Bellman, a well-established leader in applied mathematics and operations research, suggested to Shoemaker that she bring her academic interests to environmental issues. After a year long postdoctoral position at Cornell University, she was hired full time and joined the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty.

Unlike most other young academics, Shoemaker was not concerned with the traditional worries of getting tenure. This made for a calmer environment in which to explore her own interests at the early stages of her career. Shoemaker has remained with Cornell, becoming a full professor in 1985. In 1995 she turned down an offer to be the only endowed chair controlled by Civil Engineering and Operations Research at Princeton University, deciding to remain in Ithaca. In 2002, she was named the Joseph P. Ripley Professor of Engineering at Cornell.  In 2015 she became a Distinguished Professor at the National University of Singapore, retiring from Cornell in 2016. 

During Shoemaker's early years at Cornell, only five percent of the engineering students were women. She became the faculty advisor of the student women's organization. Since then, Shoemaker has had a continued involvement in the movement to bring more women into engineering and computer science. At Cornell, she was the PhD advisor to dozens of students, including many women, in a range of disciplines.  Her Mathematical Genealogy lists 101 PhD student descendants. She was also on the faculty of the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering. 

Through optimization, Shoemaker finds cost-effective and robust solutions for a number of environmental problems. She has developed a number of general purpose nonlinear algorithms that utilize high performance computing for the study of environmental systems. Shoemaker's algorithms address local and global integer optimization, stochastic optimal control, and qualification problems. As her career progressed, she moved gradually away from generic ecological issues towards water quality and management. In 1985, she initiated a United Nations Environment Program/Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (UNEP/SCOPE) project on groundwater contamination in developing countries. 

With co-inventors, Shoemaker holds patents on inventions in environmental engineering ("a differential dynamic programming (DDP) method for computing optimal, time-varying pumping policies utilized in groundwater remediation") and  computer power management ("multi-core computer processor based on a dynamic core-level power management for enhanced overall power efficiency"). 

Shoemaker has published many important articles in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), bringing operations research techniques to hydrology and water quality. She was elected a Fellow of the association in 2003. Shoemaker is also an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, and a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM). In 2014, she received the National Engineering Award for her pioneering career as an educator and for her role in the UNEP/SCOPE groundwater project. 

Other Biographies

Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Highlight Seminar Series: Christine Shoemaker, Cornell University. Accessed April 9, 2015. (link)

Cornell University Civil and Environmental Engineering. People: Christine Ann Shoemaker. Accessed April 9, 2015. (link)

Cornell University School of Operations Research and Information Engineering. People: Christine A. Shoemaker. Accessed April 9, 2015. (link)


University of California, Davis, BS 1966

University of Southern California, PhD 1971 (Mathematics Genealogy


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations
  • HydroMath, LLC

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas

Oral Histories

Christine Shoemaker  (2017) Interview by Peter Frazier, November 2017, Houston, TX 

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: Early Days and Path to Applied Mathematics
Chapter 2: Social Action and Working with Richard Bellman
Chapter 3: Early Cornell Days: Optimization and Environmental Systems
Chapter 4: Impact of Computing on Advancing My Algorithmic Research and Applications
Chapter 5: PSYOT RBF Surrogate Global Optimization and Other Algorithms Distributed
Chapter 6: Being Woman and a Chairman in a Male-dominated Discipline
Chapter 7: Extending RBF Surrogate Optimization to MCMC Uncertainty Quantification
Chapter 8: Issues with Working in Both Optimization and Environmental Research Areas
Chapter 9: Overview of Career and Students

Cornell University Library. eCommons Video: Christine Shoemaker & Jery R. Stedinger Discuss The History of CEE. Accessed April 9, 2015. (link

Awards and Honors

Society of Women Engineers Distinguished Educator Award 1991

American Society of Civil Engineers Julian Hinds Award 1999

American Geophysical Union Fellow 2003

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2004

National Academy of Engineering Member 2012

AAES National Engineering Award 2014

SIAM Fellow 2014

National Engineering Award 2014

Selected Publications

Pimentel D. P. & Shoemaker C. A. (1974) An Economic and Land Use Model for Reducing Insecticides on Cotton and Corn. Environmental Entomology, 3: 10-20.

Hooper R. P. & Shoemaker C. A. (1985) Aluminum mobilization in an acidic headwater stream: temporal variation and mineral dissolution disequilibria. Science, 229(4712): 463-465.

Hooper R. P. & Shoemaker C. A. (1986) A comparison of chemical and isotopic hydrograph separation. Water Resources Research, 22(10): 1444-1454.

Chang L. C., Liu P. L. F., & Shoemaker C. A. (1992) Optimal time‐varying pumping rates for groundwater remediation: Application of a constrained optimal control algorithm. Water Resources Research, 28(12): 3157-3173.

Culver T. B. & Shoemaker C. A. (1992) Dynamic optimal control for groundwater remediation with flexible management periods. Water Resources Research, 28(3): 629-641.

Johnson S. A., Li Y., Shoemaker C. A., Stedinger J. R., & Tejada-Guibert J. A. (1993) Numerical solution of continuous-state dynamic programs using linear and spline interpolation. Operations Research, 41(3): 484-500.

Chen V. C., Ruppert D., & Shoemaker C. A. (1999) Applying experimental design and regression splines to high-dimensional continuous-state stochastic dynamic programming. Operations Research, 47(1): 38-53.

Regis R. G. & Shoemaker C. A. (2005) Constrained global optimization of expensive black box functions using radial basis functions. Journal of Global Optimization, 31(1): 153-171.

Shoemaker C. A. & Tolson B. A. (2007) Dynamically dimensioned search algorithm for computationally efficient watershed model calibration. Water Resources Research, 43(1).