Tuning Evolutionary Search for Closed-Loop Optimization

Student thesis: Phd


Closed-loop optimization deals with problems in which candidate solutions are evaluated by conducting experiments, e.g. physical or biochemical experiments. Although this form of optimization is becoming more popular across the sciences, it may be subject to rather unexplored resourcing issues, as any experiment may require resources in order to be conducted. In this thesis we are concerned with understanding how evolutionary search is affected by three particular resourcing issues -- ephemeral resource constraints (ERCs), changes of variables, and lethal environments -- and the development of search strategies to combat these issues.The thesis makes three broad contributions. First, we motivate and formally define the resourcing issues considered. Here, concrete examples in a range of applications are given. Secondly, we theoretically and empirically investigate the effect of the resourcing issues considered on evolutionary search. This investigation reveals that resourcing issues affect optimization in general, and that clear patterns emerge relating specific properties of the different resourcing issues to performance effects. Thirdly, we develop and analyze various search strategies augmented on an evolutionary algorithm (EA) for coping with resourcing issues. To cope specifically with ERCs, we develop several static constraint-handling strategies, and investigate the application of reinforcement learning techniques to learn when to switch between these static strategies during an optimization process. We also develop several online resource-purchasing strategies to cope with ERCs that leave the arrangement of resources to the hands of the optimizer. For problems subject to changes of variables relating to the resources, we find that knowing which variables are changed provides an optimizer with valuable information, which we exploit using a novel dynamic strategy. Finally, for lethal environments, where visiting parts of the search space can cause the permanent loss of resources, we observe that a standard EA's population may be reduced in size rapidly, complicating the search for innovative solutions. To cope with such scenarios, we consider some non-standard EA setups that are able to innovate genetically whilst simultaneously mitigating risks to the evolving population.
Date of Award1 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJoshua Knowles (Supervisor)


  • Dynamic optimization
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Constrained optimization
  • Bandit algorithms
  • Closed-loop optimization
  • Evolutionary computation
  • Adaptation
  • Optimization

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