This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 766186. EU Flag

Meet our project team

The research groups at the University of Birmingham and Leiden University, lead by Professor Xin Yao and Professor Thomas Back respectively, will focus on the theoretical and algorithmic strands.  Honda Research Institute and NEC lead by Professor Bernhard Sendhoff and Dr Zhao Xu respectively, will focus on the application strand.  This multidisciplinary team has innovation at heart and our mission is to train a cohort of highly skilled Early Stage Researchers in Machine Learning and Optimisation to address challenges in product design and engineering.  Download the ECOLE Website Meet the Team Page as a PDF

University of Birmingham

CERCIA@ University of Birmingham (UoB) is a world leader in nature-inspired computation (especially evolutionary computation) and its application. Its expertise include evolutionary computation, ensemble learning and search based software engineering. CERCIA@UoB is the overall coordinator of the ECOLE project.

It employs two ESRs and supervises PhD studies of four ESRs. The supervisors involved include Professor Xin Yao, Dr Leandro Minku,  Professor Peter Tino,  Professor Ata Kaban and Dr Shuo Wang.

Prof Xin Yao

Dr Leandro Minku

Dr Shuo Wang

Dr Shuo Wang



Prof Peter Tino

Prof Peter Tino


NEC Laboratories Europe GmbH will provide opportunities for ESRs to participate in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence research, help the ESRs better understand the industrial demands and applications, and supervise the ESRs to produce cutting-edge technologies with industrial impact.

They will be responsible for dedicated topics within project seminars and workshops as well as hosting a summer school.

Dr Zhao Xu

Honda Research Institute Europe

Honda Research Institute Europe GmbH is the European office of the three globally well-established fundamental research institutes of Honda. It focuses on the research of intelligent system technologies for “a sustainable and joyful society by creating innovations that harmonize technology, nature and people.” It won the prestigious IEEE Computational Intelligence Society Outstanding Organization Award for its leadership and innovative work in this field.  The PhD students are supervised by Professor Bernhard Sendhoff and Dr Stefan Menzel, Nevryie Mehmet provides admin support.

Prof Bernhard Sendhoff

Dr Stefan Menzel

Universiteit Leiden

The Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) is a center of excellence for multidisciplinary research and education in computer science and artificial intelligence (AI).

LIACS concentrates on the study of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science, with a strong foundation in core computer science. Research programmes include Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Big Data Mining, Natural Computing, Optimisation and Multiple-Criteria Decision Making.

All ESRs will have access to LIACS’ vibrant research and education environment and the institute’s modern office and computing facilities, including with the two computing clusters that it hosts for ESRs to carry out CPU-intensive research work.  The ESRs will be supervised by Professor Thomas Bäck, Dr Bas van Stein, Dr Hao Wang and Dr Wojtek Kowalczyk, Felix Wittleben provides project management support.

Professor Thomas Back

Dr Wojtek Kowalczyk

Bas van Stein

Dr Bas van Stein

Felix Wittleben

Felix Wittleben

Dr Hao Wang



ESR1: Thiago Rios, (Brazil)

  • Project Topic: High-dimensionality and big-data models in learning-based optimisation methods.
  • Objectives: Develop novel learning algorithms for optimisation and design space exploration in high dimensional spaces integrating modelling techniques that use multi-domain knowledge. Benchmarking them on practical and academic benchmarks.
  • Degree/Qualification: Masters Mechanical Engineering at UFSC (Florianopolis, Brazil).
  • Hobbies/interests: Motorsports and cycling.
  • HRI-EU Webpage


ESR2: Sneha Saha, (India)

  • Project Topic: Constrained, multiple-criteria and preference-aware optimisation.
  • Objectives: To develop, analyse, evaluate and compare learning-based constrained and multi-objective constrained optimisation algorithms on both benchmarks and industrial problems.
  • Degree/Qualification: Integrated masters on Digital Media Technology, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.
  • Hobbies/interests: Painting, Exploring new places.
  • Sneha Personal Website


ESR3: Sibghat Ullah, (Pakistan)

  • Project Topic: Uncertainty handling and robust design in learning-based optimisation.
  • Objectives: To develop, evaluate and compare self-tuning learning-based, multi-objective constrained optimisation algorithms on both benchmarks and industrial problems in dynamic environment, with uncertainty handling ability and robust design.
  • Degree/Qualification: MS Data Science, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy
  • Hobbies/interests: Football.
  • Sibghat Personal Webpage


ESR4: Duc Anh Nguyen, (Vietnam)

  • Project Topic: Automatic algorithm configuration for parameter tuning of modelling and optimisation algorithms.
  • Objectives: To develop, analyse, evaluate and compare algorithm configuration approaches for their application in the context of learning and optimisation.
  • Degree/Qualification: Masters in Information Technology Management, Vietnam National University, Vietnam
  • Hobbies/interests: Reading & sport
  • Anh Personal Webpage

ESR5: Jiawen (Fay) Kong, (China)

  • Project Topic: Class imbalance classification through semi-supervised and active earning for experience-based optimisation.
  • Objectives: To develop, analyse, evaluate and compare novel class imbalance learning algorithms using semi-supervised and active learning ideas on both benchmarks and industrial problems.
  • Degree/Qualification: Master in Statistics, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • Hobbies/interests: Translating English lyrics into Chinese, handmade bags by myself.
  • Jiawen Personal Webpage


ESR6: Stephen Friess, (Germany)

  • Project Topic: Big data analytics through learning in the model space for experience computation.
  • Objectives: To develop, analyse, evaluate and compare novel methods for model generation, distance measures and model learning in the framework of learning in the model space on both benchmarks and industrial problems.
  • Degree/Qualification: Master of Science, Physics, Darmstadt University of Technology.
  • Hobbies/interests: Travelling, Reading, Photography
  • Stephen Personal Webpage
Stephen Friess


ESR7: Gan Ruan, (China)

  • Project Topic: Online learning in experience-based optimisation in dynamic and uncertain environments.
  • Objectives: To develop, analyse, evaluate and compare effective real-time online learning algorithms for concept drifts in a dynamic and uncertain environment on both benchmarks and industrial problems.
  • Degree/Qualification: Bachelor degree of Engineering and Master degree of Engineering, Xiangtan University, China
  • Hobbies/interests: Traveling, reading books, playing games.
  • Gan Personal Webpage


ESR8: Giuseppe Serra, (Rome, Italy)

  • Project Topic: Text and social media mining with deep probabilistic models for product feature optimisation.
  • Objectives: To develop, analyse, evaluate and compare novel text mining methods for automatically detecting customers’ opinions on aspects and features of products from large collections of unstructured texts.
  • Degree/Qualification: BSc in Statistics for Management, MSc in Data Science, Sapienza, University of Rome.
  • Hobbies/interests: Passionate about Music, Futsal (5-a-side football) Player
  • Giuseppe Personal Webpage