Women at GECCO 2016


Women form an under-represented cohort in evolutionary computation, whether the cohort is examined in industry, academics or both. The broad objective of this workshop is bring participants of GECCO together to share ways that will generate, encourage, and support academic, professional, and social opportunities in evolutionary computation. The workshop will foster, sustain and impart role models, and offer the opportunity to interact with others “in the same boat”. However, we invite and encourage all faculty, professional and students interested in Evolutionary Computation to attend, regardless of gender.

Program Outline

  • Introduction of workshop and participants
  • Invited talk by Stephanie Forrest
  • Science Slam: short performances of 4 or 5 selected speakers
  • “Ice-Breaker”: getting to know each other
  • Open Discussion
  • Panel Discussion

Invited Talk

The relevance of role models cannot be overstated. Over the years, our workshop has held an invited talk,
where a female role model shares with us her passion for her field, in the context of her life and career
story. This year we have the privilege to host Prof. Stephanie Forrest, who will also be presenting a
plenary lecture at the main conference.

Stephanie is a leading figure in the field of complex adaptive systems, at the frontier between computing
and biology. Her original research crosses the boundaries of these areas, with topics such as computational
immunology, automated software repair, biologically inspired approaches to computer security, and the
biology of software. Her work involves theory, practical relevance, public engagement and informing
policy; making her a rare example of an all-round academic. This, combined with her friendly and
approachable manner, makes her presence at our forum even more valuable. Her work and life are a
constant source of inspiration. We warmly welcome the opportunity to listen to Stephanie this year!

Science Slam*

Started at the Women@GECCO workshop in 2015, the science slam has proven to be a very successful and
popular element of the workshop. Humorous and imaginative presentations ranging from role-playing with
lego bricks to poetry combined both entertainment and scientific contributions in an engaging way and
initiated lively discussions. We are looking forward to another round of very different creative
presentations of interesting research projects.

Participants interested in presenting their work in the science slam can send their proposals to Carola. Proposals can be very short (2 or 3 lines about the topic, your presentation format, and material needed (if any)).

Ice-Breaking Activity

To foster the networking aspect of the workshop, this year’s Women@GECCO will feature a “Speed
Dating” session as its ice-breaker activity (replacing the poster session run last year). The purpose of this
activity is:
  • To provide participants with an opportunity to meet new people.
  • To create opportunities for interaction on an informal one-to-one basis (rather than a more
  • intimidating group setting).
  • To uncover and explore joint scientific interests, possibly kick-starting future collaborations.
  • To facilitate spontaneous participation, as no significant preparation is required!
The format of the session will follow a speed-dating format, with introductions centered around an
“elevator-pitch” of one’s research. Anyone is welcome to join in!

Open Discussion

We started a conversation on work/life balance in 2014 and have been continuing that discussion each year.
This year, we want to continue that conversation and dive into discussing what each one of us expects or
has expected from our first jobs and how to combine a successful career with a rich private life. We want to
hear from you:
  • What do you expect your work/life balance to look like in academia versus industry?
  • What are / had you worried about for balance in your first job?
  • What worked and what didn’t the last time you started at a new job?
  • What are your expectations for your first job’s balance / what were your expectations?
  • What do you think about the different kinds of schools and how the work/life balance would be
  • there?

Panel Discussion

The workshop will again be complemented by a panel discussion on work-life questions. This session can be attended independently of a participation at the main women@GECCO workshop. Details for this session will be announced in spring 2016.

Your Participation*

No submission is required to attend this quarter-day workshop. Participants interested in presenting their work in the science slam can send their proposals to Carola. Proposals can be very short (2 or 3 lines about the topic, your presentation format, and material needed (if any)).

Not limited to this workshop, we encourage input from all women and men interested in women's issues on the following topics:
  • How can women be encouraged to enter the field of evolutionary computation?
  • What will help women in evolutionary computation remain in the field long term?
  • What are the different challenges along a career path?
  • What strategies will help parents navigate career and family responsibilities?
  • What changes can be adopted by women as a group, by our larger community with respect to our conferences and awards, or by our academic institutions with respect to positions and promotions?
  • Are there experiences and strategies that can be shared which allow senior women to support more junior ones or peers to support each other?
  • Every women’s experience is different and shaped by cultural, society, institutional and personal influences. Are there ways to support across these differences?
  • Often, numbers are such that a woman can feel quite isolated. What can other women do to help?
  • Many research settings may also be isolating in general. What can men and women do to interact more with their peers?


Carola Doerr: Carola is a permanent researcher with the CNRS and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris 6). She studied mathematics at Kiel University (Diploma in 2007) and computer science at the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Saarland University (PhD in 2011). From Dec. 2007 to Nov. 2009, Carola Doerr has worked as a business consultant for McKinsey & Company, mainly in the area of network optimization. She was a post-doc at the Université 7 in Paris and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken. Carola Doerr's main research interest is in the theory of randomized algorithms, both in the design of efficient algorithms as well as in randomized query complexities. She has published several papers in the field of evolutionary computation. She has been a co-organizer of the 2013 and 2014 women@GECCO events.

Julia Handl: Julia obtained a Bsc (Hons) in Computer Science from Monash University in 2001, an MSc degree in Computer Science from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in 2003, and a PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Manchester in 2006. From 2007 to 2011, she held an MRC Special Training Fellowship at the University of Manchester, and she is now a Lecturer in the Decision and Cognitive Sciences Group at the Manchester Business School. Her work is in the broad areas of heuristic optimization and machine learning. Particular topics of interest include the consideration of multiple criteria in machine learning and the development of optimization approaches for challenging application areas in industry, as well as computational biology.

Emma Hart: Emma gained a 1st Class Honours Degree in Chemistry from the University of Oxford, followed by an MSc in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Edinburgh in 1996. Her PhD, also from the University of Edinburgh, explored the use of immunology as an inspiration for computing, examining a range of techniques applied to optimisation and data classification problems. She moved to Edinburgh Napier University in 2000 as a lecturer, and was promoted to a Chair in 2008 in Natural Computation. She leads the Centre for Algorithms, Visualisation and Evolving Systems with the Institute for Informatics & Digital Innovation at Edinburgh Napier. Her research focuses on the development of novel bio-inspired techniques for solving a range of real-world optimisation and classification problems, as well as exploring the fundamental properties of immune-inspired computing through modelling and simulation. Her current research interests are focused on systems that can continue learning over their lifetime, with applications in optimisation and robotics. This brings together keys ideas from the AIS and Evolutionary Computing communities. In addition to academic research, she is also involved in Knowledge Transfer and Commercial activities, applying her research to real problems in industry.

Gabriela Ochoa: Gabriela Ochoa is a Senior Lecturer in Computing Science at the University of Stirling, Scotland. She holds a PhD in Computing Science and Artificial Intelligence from the University of Sussex, UK. Her research interests lie in the foundations and application of evolutionary algorithms and heuristic search methods, with emphasis on autonomous (self-*) search, hyper-heuristics, fitness landscape analysis, and applications to combinatorial optimisation, healthcare, and software engineering. She has published over 90 scholarly papers and serves various program committees. She is associate editor of Evolutionary Computation (MIT Press), was involved in founding the Self-* Search track in 2011, and served as the tutorial chair at GECCO in 2012, 2013. She proposed the first Cross-domain Heuristic Search Challenge (CHeSC 2011) and was chair of EvoCOP 2014, EvoCOP 2015, FOGA 2015, and id serving as program chair for PPSN 2016.

Amarda Shehu: Amarda’s research contributions are in computational structural biology, biophysics, and bioinformatics with a focus on issues concerning the relationship between sequence, structure, dynamics, and function in biological molecules. Shehu has unique expertise in tight coupling of robotics-inspired and evolutionary-based probabilistic search and optimization with computational protein biophysics, and has made significant contributions to modeling native structures, equilibrium fluctuations and conformational ensembles, loop motions, large-scale motions connecting diverse functional states, and assembly of proteins and peptides. Her research on probabilistic search and optimization algorithms for protein structure modeling is supported by various NSF programs, including Intelligent Information Systems, Computing Core Foundations, and Software Infrastructure, as well as the Jeffress Trust Program in Interdisciplinary Sciences, and the Virginia Youth Tobacco Award. Shehu is also the recipient of an NSF CAREER award. Shehu is an active member of the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology ACM and IEEE Communities, serving regularly at various organizational capacities, and organizes yearly workshops, tutorials, and conferences in these communities.

Tea Tušar: Tea Tušar is a postdoc in the Dolphin team at INRIA Lille - Nord Europe, France. She received her Ph.D. degree in Information and Communication Technologies from the Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School, Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 2014. Before joining INRIA in 2015, she has worked at the Department of Intelligent Systems at the Jožef Stefan Institute since 2004, first as a research assistant and later as a postdoc. Her research interests include evolutionary algorithms for single- and multi-objective optimization with emphasis on visualizing and benchmarking their results and applying them to real-world problems. She served as a workshops co-chair at PPSN 2014 and co-organized GECCO’s Student Workshop in years 2013-2015.

Christine Zarges: Christine is a Birmingham Fellow and Lecturer in the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham, UK, since 2012. She received her degree and PhD from the TU Dortmund, Germany, in 2007 and 2011, respectively. Afterwards, she held a postdoctoral research position at the University of Warwick, UK. She has given tutorials on "Artificial Immune Systems for Optimisation" at previous GECCOs, was co-chair of the AIS and AIS-ACHEM track at GECCO 2014 and 2015, co-organiser of FOGA 2015 and co-workshop chair of PPSN 2016. She is member of the editorial board of Evolutionary Computation (MIT Press). Her research focuses on the theoretical analysis of all kinds of (nature-inspired) randomised search heuristics. She is also interested in computational and theoretical aspects of immunology.

Nur Zincir-Heywood: Nur is a Professor of Computer Science at Dalhousie University, Canada. She received her PhD in 1998 in Computer Science and Engineering from Ege University, Turkey. Prior to moving to Dalhousie in 2000, she had been a researcher at Sussex University, UK and Karlsruhe University, Germany as well as working as an instructor at the Internet Society Network Management workshops. She has published over 150 papers in network management, security , information systems and computational intelligence fields. She has substantial experience of industrial research in systems security and network management related topics with Raytheon, RUAG, Gtech, and the Canadian granting agencies. Nur is a member of the IEEE and ACM.

For more information on Women@GECCO, its mission, and past workshops, visit Women@GECCO.