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On August 1, 2017, I gave the research presentation Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at the research group of Prof. Dr. Rainer Schrader at the Department of Computer Science of the University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln).

This group pursues the goal of building a bridge between real-life problems and the theoretical theorems of pure Mathematics. They closely cooperate with industrial partners to obtain solutions in an application-driven way, by applying research in several fields of Mathematics and Computer Science. Their current work includes contributions to the theory of interval graphs. The knowledge transfer to the industry plays also a very important role for the group as well, as it inspires innovative directions for both their fundamental research and teaching curriculum. The group offers research strength in areas such as complex simulations for economical models and traffic, the development of control models for optimizing process in industrial production, pattern recognition, and the development of multimedia and interactive learning systems. These competences support a variety of partners such as DB Schenker, the Deutsche Bank AG, the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Ford, Lufthansa Systems GmbH, the Siemens AG, the Springer-Verlag, and the WDR TV sender (ARD Sportschau). The fundamental research of the group concerns discrete structures such as partially ordered sets and P4 structures, combinatorial optimization, bioinformatics, and stochastic modeling (such as the aforementioned traffic models).

I was looking forward to meeting Prof. Schrader and his group for quite some time and found the atmosphere in their Tuesday's Research Seminar very enjoyable.

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On July 31, 2017, I held my research talk Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at Swarm Intelligence and Complex Systems Group of Prof. Dr. Martin Middendorf at the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany (official announcement).

The group is focused on the field of complex systems which they tackle with swarm intelligence, bio-inspired computation and optimization, and organic computing. The also tackle issues in phylogeny and reconfigurable architectures for parallel computing. One of the many contributions of this group is a large set of open source software systems, for phylogenesis, RNA and mitochondrial genome analysis using optimization algorithms. I know Prof. Middendorf for more than five years personally and have deep respect for his work: His Population-based Ant Colony Optimization algorithm is the best (non-hybrid) metaheuristic approach that I know for the Traveling Salesman Problem and also a component of the best hybrid approach in all the experiments I have conducted with our TSP Suite in, e.g., our 2014 study.

After I met Prof. Middendorf several times in China and know him since 2011, so it was very nice to finally get to visit his group in Leipzig. It was a really pleasant experience to present in his faculty and I enjoyed the interest and fruitful discussion afterwards, as well as Prof. Middendorf's hospitality.

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On July 28, 2017, I gave my research talk Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at the Enterprise Application Development (EAD) group of Prof. Dr. Jörg Lässig at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of the University of Applied Sciences Zittau/Görlitz (HZG, Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz) in the historical city of Görlitz, Germany, directly next to the border to Poland. Prof. Lässig is an old friend, from the same university, and we have collaborated on numerous joint projects.

The EAD group is interested in all aspects of enterprise application development. Their leading topics are Energy Efficiency, i.e., supporting companies, users, and even energy providers to measure and reduce energy consumption, and Computational Sustainability, i.e., sustainable information technologies and applications beyond Green IT paradigm, as it covers both technologies for more simple, effective, scalable, robust, adaptable and enhanced software solutions as well as improvements towards more sustainable processes, services and products. The group follows several directions in these contexts, such as:

The group collaborates with several companies, such as the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, the Bosch Rexroth AG, the CBS Information Technologies AG, the Rapid-I GmbH, Saxonia Systems, ARC Solutions and Deutsche Software & Research. They are a truly unique group which combine strong fundamental and applied research. We have many common interests, for instance on the field of logistics and optimized management, as can be seen from our collaboration history.

Like my visit last year, it was a very, very pleasant experience to visit Jörg's group. The audience was again unusually big, especially for the current vacation time, and the discussions following my talk were both enlightening and interesting.

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On July 27, 2017, I gave the research talk Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at the Computational Intelligence Group of Prof. Dr. Rudolf Kruse at the Institute of Intelligent Cooperating Systems, Faculty of Computer Science of the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg (OVGU, Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg).

The Computational Intelligence Group has a tradition of more than twenty years. It is focused on intelligent data analysis using computational intelligence technologies, such as neural networks, fuzzy systems, evolutionary algorithms, Bayesian networks, machine learning (e.g., clustering), and approximate reasoning. The have conducted numerous fundamental research projects with support from DFG, COST, DAAD, and the EU as well as a wide variety of successful industry collaborations with companies such as BMW, Daimler, VW, Dresdner Bank, HDI, BT, Beiersdorf, SAP, and Siemens. They have published more than 35 books and 475 refereed papers. Recently, for instance, Prof. Kruse et al. published the second edition of their book Computational Intelligence: A Methodological Introduction (Springer, ISBN 978-1-4471-7294-9, doi:10.1007/978-1-4471-7296-3), which discusses neural networks, evolutionary algorithms, fuzzy systems, and Bayes networks. Remarkably, they also provide lecture slides for the whole book.

It was a real pleasure to visit this research group and a honor to meet Prof. Kruse and I really enjoyed our talk.

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On July 26, 2017, I presented our work on Automating Scientific Research in Optimization at the Institute of Applied Stochastics and Operations Research (IASOR) of the Mathematics branch of the Faculty of Mathematics/Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering of the Clausthal University of Technology (Technische Universität Clausthal) in Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany. The IASOR consists of four groups, Applied Statistics, Stochastic Models in Engineering Science, Stochastic Optimization, and the Discrete Optimization group.

The visit gave me the chance to have very nice talks with Prof. Dr. Stephan Westphal and Prof. Dr. Michael Kolonko.

Prof. Westphal leads the Discrete Optimization group, which is specialized in solving hard combinatorial problems, such as variants of the traveling umpire- and traveling tournament-, knapsack-, bin packing-, as well as other vehicle routing- and scheduling problems. Prof. Westphal is well-known for applying optimization methods to construct the gaming schedules of the German football and basketball leagues.

The Stochastic Optimization group of Prof. Dr. Michael Kolonko works on stochastic modeling and simulation in operations research, heuristic optimization methods, optimization and robustness of timetables in traffic networks and airport landing strips, as well as the simulation of particle mixtures. Moreover, they provide very nice teaching material in form of Java and JavaScript applets.

It is needless to say that there were many interesting topics and common interests to discuss with this outstanding group.

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