Sheldon H. Jacobson

Past Awards

Saul Gass Expository Writing Award: Winner(s)
2020 - Winner(s)

Professor Sheldon Jacobson has been a prolific writer and communicator of operations research for more than 30 years. His 300+ articles include not only academic journal papers but also opinion pieces in newspapers and other public media.

His research and expositions have made significant impact on aviation security policies. The 2006 Naval Research Logistics article, "Multi-level Passenger Screening Problem for Aviation Security," the 2007 Transportation Science article, "A Sequential Stochastic Security System Design Problem for Aviation Security," and his other papers provided the theoretical underpinnings that informed the design of TSA PreCheck, the risk-based airport-security expediting system deployed by the Transportation Security Administration at airports across the United States. His work on aviation security has been recognized by the IATA Aviation Security Research Award (2002) and the 2018 INFORMS Impact Prize.

Over the decades, Professor Jacobson has dedicated his effort to draw the attention of the general public to the power of operations research and analytics for informed policy and decision making. He has written on a broad range of subjects: aviation security, healthcare, transportation, political redistricting and elections, etc. The writings of Prof. Jacobson have reached such a wide audience due to his expository talent for explaining intricate scientific theories in an intuitive way so that the policy implications become clear. As his nominators note: "Sheldon's gift for making complex technical concepts and analysis accessible to the general public is the hallmark of his writings and communications."

For the expository excellence, broad accessibility, and far-reaching impact of his work, Professor Sheldon Jacobson is richly deserving of the Award.

George E. Kimball Medal: Winner(s)
2020 - Winner(s)

Sheldon H. Jacobson is founder professor in computer science, director of the Simulation and Optimization Laboratory, and founding director of the Bed Time Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He holds appointments in Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mathematics, and the College of Medicine.

He has made several seminal research contributions, all focusing on applying operations research and advanced analytics to address societal problems of national interest. For example, his research on multilevel aviation security passenger screening at airports was the precursor to risk-based security, providing the foundational concepts that informed the design and implementation of TSA PreCheck. His contributions have been recognized with numerous awards, including a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2018 INFORMS Impact Prize, given biennially to recognize widespread impact of operations research.

His research has been widely reported and communicated in the national press, including the Washington PostChicago TribuneLos Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe, editorialized in the New York Times, and discussed in Business Week, Forbes, Kiplinger, and The Osgood Files on CBS radio. He has appeared on CNBC's Street Signs and The Closing Bell, MSNBC's Weekends with Alex Witt, Washington Post Radio, CBS This Morning, and CBC Canada News (television and radio), and BBC World News (television and radio).

Professor Sheldon Jacobson's service to operations research and INFORMS spans many dimensions. His notable contributions include serving as INFORMS Treasurer, program director for operations research at the National Science Foundation, serving on National Academy of Science and National Academy of Medicine committees, general chair for the 2022 INFORMS Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, authoring numerous articles for OR/MS Today and recording podcasts for INFORMS, and briefing policymakers about the value of his research on issues of national concern, and working with the media in communicating his research findings to the general public as an expert.

His service has helped elevate the recognition of the operations research profession through media and outreach, advanced opportunities for the operations research profession through advocacy and service to national funding agencies and continues to help INFORMS thrive.

For his distinguished service to the Institute and the profession of operations research, the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences expresses its sincere appreciation to Sheldon Jacobson by awarding him the 2020 George E. Kimball Medal.

Volunteer Service Award: Winner(s)
2020 - Winner(s)

Public Sector Operations Research Best Paper Award: Finalist
Winning material: Political Districting with Fairness Objectives: An Optimization-Based Multilevel Approach
Impact Prize : Awardee(s)
2018 - Awardee(s)

Laura Albert, Kenneth C. Fletcher, Sheldon H. Jacobson, Adrian J. Lee, and Alexander Nikolaev


Aviation security is composed of methods and techniques used to safeguard aircraft, their passengers, and their crews. The events of September 11, 2001 had an enormous impact on aviation security in the United States. One of the most significant changes was the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the responsibilities they assumed for security operations at commercial airports throughout the United States. For the next decade, essentially all travelers were assumed to have the same level of security risk, and as such, subjected to the same level of security screening. In October 2011, the TSA launched the TSA PreCheck© program—a risk-based security strategy that aligns passenger risk with security resources.
More than six million passengers are enrolled in TSA PreCheck, with an additional seven million travelers participating as members of other trusted populations and many more passengers receiving TSA PreCheck benefits from airlines. Approximately one million passenger screenings at commercial airports across the
United States every day are TSA PreCheck qualified passengers. TSA PreCheck screening lanes are available at nearly 450 domestic airports with more than 50 U.S. and major foreign airlines participating. Similar programs patterned after the TSA PreCheck model are functioning in Canada, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, extending the application of this concept globally.
Implementing TSA PreCheck is widely heralded as transforming aviation security. The design and implementation of this program relied on operations research to transform an abstract concept into a practical tool. The early work in this area involved collaboration between academia and personnel at the TSA. Dynamic optimization models were formulated and applied to capture and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of aviation security systems. The approach uses real-time assignment policies to adapt to variations in the day-to-day airport threat environment. This combined work provided insights regarding risk-based security, had direct impact on the implementation of
the TSA PreCheck system, and laid the groundwork for further academic research on risk-based security assessment.

For their pivotal role in the creation and widespread adoption of risk-based aviation security strategies, INFORMS is pleased to award the 2018 Impact Prize to Laura Albert, Kenneth C. Fletcher, Sheldon H. Jacobson, Adrian J. Lee, and Alexander Nikolaev.

INFORMS Elected Fellows: Awardee(s)