I Heart GECCO Women 125



The Women@GECCO workshop series started in 2013 as a venue in which successful women researchers welcome and support other women in evolutionary computation (EC). Organically over the years, the workshop became a venue where students and junior researchers from different under-represented cohorts in EC interacted in an informal setting with more established women researchers on various issues related to fostering and balancing one’s professional and social life, as well as on inserting oneself in the EC community.

To acknowledge the growing body of EC researchers and the need for newcomers to integrate themselves in the community, as well as glean effective ways to support growth from informative experiences of other researchers, the 2017 Women@GECCO workshop expands its focus from “by women for women” to “GECCO women welcome EC newcomers”.


The agenda of the workshop will be participant-driven, and a poll provides the space for GECCO participants to voice the issues most important to them, as well as vote on issues that they would most like to hear about from presenters. Three presenters representing the three stages of one’s professional career (a graduate student, an early-career independent researcher, and an experienced researcher) will share their experiences as they relate to the issues of most importance to the participants. The workshop will also provide the space for participants to interact with the presenters and one another and in this way share experiences, professional interests, and social opportunities.

The workshop will take place on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 18:00 in Saphir 2+3.


  1. Vanessa Volz: Challenges of a PhD student and early stage researcher
  2. Justyna Petke: A road to becoming an independent researcher
  3. Anna I Esparcia-Alcázar: Learn from my mistakes: what NOT to do to become a world leading researcher

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

Keynote Speakers

Vanessa Volz

Vanessa Volz is a research assistant at TU Dortmund, Germany, with focus in computational intelligence. She holds B.Sc. degrees in Information Systems and in Computer Science from WWU Münster, Germany. She received an M.Sc. with distinction in Advanced Computing: Machine Learning, Data Mining and High Performance Computing from University of Bristol, UK in 2014 after completing a BigData internship at Brown University, RI, USA. Her current research focus is on employing surrogate-assisted evolutionary algorithms to obtain balance and robustness in systems with interacting human and artificial agents, especially in the context of games.

Justyna Petke

Justyna Petke has a doctorate in Computer Science from University of Oxford and is now at the Centre for Research on Evolution, Search and Testing (CREST) in University College London. She has published on applications of genetic improvement. Her work on the subject was awarded a Silver and a Gold 'Humie' at GECCO 2014 and GECCO 2016 as well as an ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award at ISSTA 2015. She also organised the first two Genetic Improvement Workshops.

Anna I Esparcia-Alcázar

Anna I Esparcia-Alcázar holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), Spain, and a PhD from the University of Glasgow, UK. She is a researcher at the PROS Centre of the UPV and an associate lecturer at the Control Department of the same university. She has ample experience both in industry and academia. For the past 10 years she has been actively involved in the organization of the two main conferences in the field of Evolutionary Computation, evostar and GECCO. She is Senior Member of the IEEE and Member of the ACM and was elect member of the Executive Committee of SIGEVO in the period 2009-2015.
In 2015 she was awarded the evo* Award for Outstanding Contribution to Evolutionary Computation in Europe.


Amarda Shehu

Dr. Shehu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at George Mason University. She holds affiliated appointments in the School of Systems Biology and the Department of Bioengineering. She received her B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics from Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY in 2002 and her Ph.D. in Computer Science from Rice University in Houston, TX in 2008, where she was an NIH fellow of the Nanobiology Training Program of the Gulf Coast Consortia. Shehu's research contributions are in computational structural biology, biophysics, and bioinformatics with a focus on issues concerning the relationship between biomolecular sequence, structure, dynamics, and function. 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. Shehu is also the recipient of an NSF CAREER award in 2012.

Tea Tušar

Tea Tušar is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Intelligent Systems of the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She received the BSc degree in Applied Mathematics and the MSc degree in Computer and Information Science from the University of Ljubljana. She was awarded the PhD degree in Information and Communication Technologies by the Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School for her work on visualizing solution sets in multiobjective optimization. She has recently completed a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at Inria Lille in France where she worked on benchmarking multiobjective optimizers. Her research interests include evolutionary algorithms for singleobjective and multiobjective optimization with emphasis on visualizing and benchmarking their results and applying them to real-world problems.

She was involved in the organization of a number of workshops at previous GECCOs (Student Workshop, Black-Box-Optimization-Benchmarking Workshop and Women@GECCO) and held a tutorial on Visualization in Multiobjective Optimization at GECCO 2016.