Think Big, Act Bold, and Help Others

Sheldon H. Jacobson

Professor,  Computer Science

Sheldon Jacobson

Addressing a Societal Problem to Contribute to the Public Good

Jacobson’s expertise in data science and risk-based analysis naturally lends itself to examining societal problems. While he does not specifically look for topics with public impact, much of his work has been very impactful. His research has been foundational in many aspects of life that the public takes for granted. For example, his contributions to risk-based security resulted in the development of the Transportation Security Administration PreCheck program for airport security. He has also explored computational redistricting, exposing gerrymandering in Illinois and other states. In addition, he has examined pediatric vaccine pricing, which helped inform appropriate prices for pediatric vaccines, saving the country as much as $50 million. His work has also focused on the relationship between obesity and transportation, and he has done bracket analytics for the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament.

Mutually Beneficial Exchange of Knowledge and Resources

While attending a professional meeting in Atlanta, Jacobson met representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who wanted a research team to help with pediatric vaccines pricing. Jacobson and a colleague developed a vaccine economic model and co-authored several peer-reviewed manuscripts about the optimization of stocking and pricing pediatric vaccines. They received funding from the National Science Foundation to support their work.

Collaboration with Communities or Organizations

Prior to 9/11, Jacobson began working on risk-based security models, matching resources to risk for air travel. In October 2003, he presented his ideas and approaches to the TSA, inspiring a subfield of research focused on aviation security analytics and the TSA PreCheck, which results in savings of over $1 million a day.


Jacobson’s impact is undeniable, ranging from airport security to sports to obesity to pediatric vaccines, and more.



Jacobson has published more than 200 peer-reviewed publications. He has received more than $5 million in funding to support his research. His funding sources include the NSF, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Federal Aviation Administration. He has also received the top awards in his field including a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has presented his research as well as his public engagement to universities across the U. S.


Jacobson has several non-traditional outputs. He has written over 350 articles and op-eds for national media venues. In 2022 alone, he wrote over 120 articles for a national audience, including in The Chicago Tribune, The Hill, The Washington Post, and more. On a monthly average, he writes two articles for The Chicago Tribune and three articles for The Hill. He has also created interactive websites for many of his research activities, including Bracketodds, which showcases his college basketball analytics research. The website receives 150,000 page views per year and is nearing one million views overall.

Additional Resources

To learn more about Professor Jacobson’s publicly engaged research, visit the links below.