Plenaries & Keynotes

Chancellor and Ford Foundation Professor of Engineering
MIT

Cynthia Barnhart

Chancellor and Ford Foundation Professor of Engineering
MIT

Cynthia Barnhart is MIT’s Chancellor and the Ford Foundation Professor of Engineering. At MIT, she previously served as Associate and Acting Dean for the School of Engineering and co-directed the Operations Research Center and the Center for Transportation and Logistics. Her research focuses on building mathematical programming models and large-scale optimization approaches for transportation and logistics systems.  

Barnhart is an INFORMS fellow and an elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served as the President of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, and in editorial roles for the flagship journals in her discipline. Barnhart was awarded the Franz Edelman 2nd Prize for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences, and the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. She has received honorary doctorates from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (2014) and the University of Toronto (2016).

Barnhart received her SM in transportation in 1985 and her PhD in 1988 from MIT.

Founder Professor of Computer Science 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sheldon Jacobson

Founder Professor of Computer Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sheldon H. Jacobson is a Founder Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He holds a B.Sc (Mathematics) from McGill University and a Ph.D. (Operations Research) from Cornell University.   

Sheldon research interests focus on using Operations Research to address public sector problems and to inform public policy.  His research on risk-based aviation security provided the foundational concepts that informed the design of TSA Precheck. His research on computational redistricting demonstrates how optimization-based AI can be used to address gerrymandering (http://redistricting.cs.illinois.edu). His research on NCAA basketball March Madness analytics is a STEM Learning Laboratory for high school and undergraduate students, http://bracketodds.cs.illinois.edu, attracting over 800,000 page views since its launch in 2012.  

His research has been reported in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times, and featured on CNBC’s Street Signs and The Closing Bell, MSNBC’s Weekends with Alex Witt, Washington Post Radio, CBS This Morning, CBC Canada News, and BBC World News

Sheldon has provided services to both government agencies and professional societies.  He has briefed personnel within the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice.  He has served on committees for the National Research Council and the National Academy of Medicine, and led the NSF-Funded workshop, Setting a Broader Impacts Innovation Roadmap. He has served as a NSF Program Director (2012-2014), the INFORMS Treasurer (2015-2016), and as a panelist at the 2019 INFORMS Government & Analytics Summit.  

Sheldon’s research has been recognized with several awards, including the INFORMS Impact Prize, the Aviation Security Research Award (Aviation Security International), and a Guggenheim Fellowship.  He is an elected Fellow of INFORMS, the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

former Deputy Director and COO
U.S. Census Bureau

Nancy Potok

former Deputy Director and COO
U.S. Census Bureau

Nancy Potok is the former Chief Statistician of the United States. She previously served as Deputy Director and COO of the U.S. Census Bureau; Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at the US Department of Commerce; Senior VP for Economic, Labor, and Population Studies at NORC at the University of Chicago; and COO at McManis & Monsalve Associates, a business analytics firm. While at the Census Bureau, Dr. Potok was the driving force behind modernization of the 2020 Census, including using OR to optimize the productivity of the massive field operations, potentially saving billions of dollars in the costs of door-to-door interviewing.  While Chief Statistician of the U.S., Dr. Potok co-chaired the development and implementation of the Federal Data Strategy, began modernizing the federal statistical system, and served as a Commissioner on the Evidence Based Policymaking Commission. In addition to representing the US at the UN Statistical Commission and Statistical Division of the OECD, she led US efforts to create and drive federal policies to realize the promise of the Foundations of Evidence-Based Policy Making Act around open data, improved data accessibility and management, linkage of sensitive microdata, AI, and other actions to enable better insights from federal data.  She currently is President of NAPx Consulting, LLC.  Dr. Potok is also an adjunct professor at The George Washington University and a Senior Fellow at its Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM) at UCLA, a contributing editor and advisory board member of the Harvard Data Science Review, on the Board of Visitors for the School of Information and Computer Science at the University of Pittsburgh, and a board member of the Data Foundation. She is the recipient of the Presidential Rank Award, the Secretary of Commerce Gold Medal and Silver Medals for outstanding achievements, and the Arthur S. Flemming Award. She received her Ph.D. at The George Washington University.