David Shmoys obtained his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984, and held postdoctoral positions at MSRI in Berkeley and Harvard University, and a faculty position at MIT before joining the Cornell faculty. He is Co-Chair of the Academic Planning Committee for Cornell Tech and Associate Director of the Institute of Computational Sustainability at Cornell University.

He is a Fellow of the ACM, INFORMS, and of SIAM, was an NSF Presidential Young Investigator, and has served on numerous editorial boards, including Mathematics of Operations Research (for which he is currently an Associate Editor), Operations Research, ORSA Journal on Computing, Mathematical Programming, and the SIAM Journals of both Computing and Discrete Mathematics, where for the latter he also served as Editor-in-Chief. He has been the advisor for 21 graduated Ph.D. students, and his former students are currently on the faculties of many leading universities and research labs, including MIT, Waterloo, Brown, Maryland, Georgetown, and D-Wave.

Shmoys' research has focused on the design and analysis of efficient algorithms for discrete optimization problems, with applications including scheduling, inventory theory, computational biology, and most recently, comptuational sustainability. His work has highlighted the central role that linear programming plays in the design of approximation algorithms for NP-hard problems; his recent book, co-authored with David Williamson), The Design of Approximation Algorithms, was awarded the 2013 Lanchester Prize by INFORMS.