Day one, 4th april 2019



Words from us
WiDS organisers


Opening remarks
Bianca Scheffler, Head Information Standards & Governance Group Digital & Information Services at Swiss Re, Zurich



Andreea Hossmann, Principal Product Manager at Swisscom, Zurich

Building A Useful Chatbot: Beyond the ML and NLP

About two years ago, chatbots seemed to be the next big thing since mobile apps. In the meantime, things have cooled down a lot, with chatbots failing to deliver on the expectations. However, conversational AI is still moving forward in great strides. So, how can companies avoid the chatbot bubble and still achieve impact with the latest conversational technology?


Helen Yannakoudakis, Senior Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, UK

Deep learning for automated language teaching and assessment

Automated language teaching and assessment offers the opportunity to increase language learning efficiency, and open access to learning worldwide. To develop effective automated models, we need to emulate human behaviour in language instruction and how value judgements about someone's language proficiency are made. In this talk, I will describe recent developments in deep learning for the automated assessment of text produced by non-native learners of English. I will discuss how we can overcome some of the challenges we face with learner data and develop models that provide immediate and detailed feedback -- a fundamental part of language instruction. I will then conclude with future directions in the field.


Sarah Ebling, Senior Researcher at the University of Zürich/Universityof Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education (HfH), Zurich, Switzerland

Data-driven automatic sign language processing

Sign languages are fully natural languages with their own grammars and vocabularies. Automatic sign language processing, a sub-field of natural language processing (NLP), comprises tasks such as automatic sign language translation, sign language recognition, and sign language synthesis. The present talk introduces each of these NLP applications, presenting the state of the art and the remaining challenges, with a focus on data-driven methods. At the end, the potential of combining the individual applications into an overall information and communication technology (ICT) solution for deaf sign language users will be discussed.


Mirna Smidt


Coffee break


Franziska Dammeier, Senior Data Scientist at Ava AG, Zurich, Switzerland

Using AI in Women’s Health

Data science can empower women by providing powerful health insights throughout their entire reproductive lives. Ava has developed a combination of machine learning and wearable technologies to help couples conceive. By measuring seven physiological parameters while sleeping, the effects of hormone changes throughout the menstrual cycle can be tracked to detect a woman’s fertile days. As the user database has grown from non-existent to “big data”, suitable detection algorithms have evolved from expert systems to deep learning.


Maria Rodriguez Martinez, Technical Lead of Systems Biology at IBM Research, Zurich, Switzerland

Artificial Intelligence approaches for personalized medicine

In recent years, deep learning has become one of most active fields in machine learning with astounding performances in a broad area of applications such as computer vision, speech recognition and natural language processing. In computational biology, the recent availability of large amounts of data generated by word-wide consortia together with technical developments facilitating the implementation and training of more performant models have made possible the broad application of deep learning to a vast set of problems. In this talk, I will present current activities at the Computational Systems Biology group in IBM Research, Zurich, that illustrate the application of AI approaches to integrate disparate data types. Specifically, I will explain how a multi-modal neural network can be trained to ingest disparate data types, such as compound molecular structure, transcriptomic data and prior molecular knowledge, and predict drug sensitivity in cancer cell lines.


Lito Kriara, Digital Biomarker Data Scientist at Roche, Basel, Switzerland

Combining remote sensor data capture with advanced signal processing and machine learning to innovate clinical research for neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases

Remote patient monitoring in clinical trials of neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases using smartphones, wearables and other sensors can provide rich information on disease status and progression that might not be captured during in-frequent clinical visits. While patients perform dedicated daily ‘active’ tests on their smartphone tailored to specific disease pathophysiology or just go about their daily activities (‘passive monitoring’), we are collecting large data sets from acceleration, gyroscope, magnetometer and other sensors embedded into wearable devices. Using dedicated signal processing algorithms in combination with statistical methods and machine learning we extract information about disease symptom severity as well as the influence of the disease on the daily life of a patient. Data collected in different studies and diseases show strong agreement between remotely collected sensor signals and clinical assessments. Furthermore, examples from Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and Schizophrenia demonstrate that remote patient monitoring can augment and extend our understanding of these severe diseases which pose a high burden on patients, families and global health at large.


Art Exhibition Intro
Luba Elliott, Sofia Crespo




Michele Sebag, Deputy Director at the Lab. of Computer Science at Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France

Algorithm Selection and Configuration with Monte-Carlo Tree Search

The AutoML task consists of selecting the proper algorithm in a machine learning portfolio, and its hyperparameter values, in order to deliver the best performance on the dataset at hand. This task is key to the knowledge transfer from research labs to industry. A Monte-Carlo tree search (MCTS)-based approach is presented to handle the AutoML hybrid structural and parametric expensive black-box optimization problem. Extensive empirical studies are conducted to independently assess and compare: i) the optimization processes based on Bayesian optimization or MCTS; ii) its warm-start initialization; iii) the ensembling of the solutions gathered along the search. The proposed approach is assessed on the OpenML 100 benchmark and the Scikit-learn portfolio, with statistically significant gains over AutoSklearn, winner of former international AutoML challenges.


Christina Heinze-Deml, Postdoctoral Researcher at ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Causality and robust machine learning

Deep neural networks have achieved outstanding performance on prediction tasks like visual object recognition. These current algorithms excel at discovering and exploiting dependencies in the training data for prediction. However, when the distribution encountered at test time differs in some respects from the training distribution, predictive performance often degrades considerably. Such “domain shifts” can be caused by changing conditions such as color, background or location changes. In this talk, I will discuss these distribution shifts from a causal viewpoint and present so-called “conditional variance penalties” which increase the robustness of estimators under domain shifts.


Sandhya Prabhakaran, Research Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, NYC, USA

Bayesian Overlap Clustering for Distance Data

We present a Probabilistic model for Overlapping Clusters on Distance data (POCD) which enables the modeling of overlapping clusters where objects are only available as pairwise distances. Examples of such distance data are genomic string alignments, protein contact maps or pairwise patient similarities. Even if it is possible to embed the distance data into a vector space, it is preferable to work directly with the distance matrix to avoid unnecessary bias and variance which can be caused by embeddings. Currently, there are no probabilistic methods that infer overlapping clusters for distance data and POCD aims to fill this gap.


Words about mentorship
WiDS organisers








Alexandra Fritzen, Product Manager at Oracle Labs, Zurich, Switzerland

The Power of Networks

Forget about your tables and SQL queries for this talk. Think of your data as a network - represented as nodes and their relationships (edges). This provides different opportunities for data scientists to explore data and extract knowledge using graph algorithms and graph visualization. In this talk, we give two examples of how representing, querying, and visualizing data as networks empowers users to effectively and efficiently understand data and make decisions.


Cordelia Schmid, Research Director at Inria / Google, Grenoble, France

Automatic Understanding of the Visual World

One of the central problems of artificial intelligence is machine perception, i.e., the ability to understand the visual world based on input from sensors such as cameras. In this talk, I will present recent progress of my team in this direction. I will start with presenting results on how to generate additional training data using weak annotations, motion information and synthetic data. Next, I will discuss our results for action recognition in videos, where human tubelets have shown to be successful. Our tubelet approach moves away from state-of-the-art frame based approaches and improve classification and localization by relying on joint information from several frames. We show how to extend this type of method to weakly supervised learning of actions, which allows us to scale to large amounts of data with sparse manual annotation. Finally, I briefly present recent work on grasping with a robot arm based on learning long-horizon manipulations with a hierarchy of RL and imitation-based skills.


W founder award
WiDS organisers


Information about Google side event
WiDS organisers


Day Two, 5th april 2019





Welcome back
WiDS organisers



Tina Rosario, Head of Data Innovation and Chief Data Officer at SAP France, Paris, France

Data Driven Experiences that Matter

Every organization in the world—large or small, new or mature, private or public—needs to look outward to close the massive gaps between the experiences organizations think they are delivering and what is really happening. Experience matters. Experiences are most meaningful when the data is accurate, relevant, trustworthy and personal. Hear the latest approach to how organizations can leverage data and insights to create meaningful, exceptional experiences that transform customers into loyal brand advocates.


Eleni Pratsini, Managing Director at Accenture AG, Zurich, Switzerland

Data driven technologies: challenges in industrial applications

The last few years saw a tremendous interest in the use of advanced technologies to extract insights from data and help improve business operations. However, a number of challenges still exist such as data acquisition from different types of sources, establishing links among different data types using both structure and content, scalability for analytics and query processing, just to name a few. In this presentation we will use industrial applications to motivate some of the advanced technologies, point out the practical and technical challenges, and highlight the business benefit from these applications.


Tanvi Singh, Managing Director, Head of Analytics & Data Science at Credit Suisse’s Compliance organization, Zurich, Switzerland

Key Success Factors in Building Up an Analytics and Data Science Function

Despite the significant investments made in the space of Big Data, Analytics and Data Science, the majority of programs and initiatives in this space fail to live up to its promises and expectations beyond the PoC stage. In this talk, Tanvi Singh outlines the key success factors behind building and scaling a successful Data Science team and managing a broad portfolio of projects with 50+ use cases. She also provides insights into how she and her team continuously innovate and work on new ideas in a Sandbox setup.


Mirna Smidt


Coffee break


Naila Murray, Group Lead & Senior Scientist at Naver Labs Europe, Meylan, France

Predicting aesthetic appreciation of images

Image aesthetics has become an important criterion for visual content curation on social media sites and media content repositories. Previous work on aesthetic prediction models in the computer vision community has focused on aesthetic score prediction or binary image labeling. However, raw aesthetic annotations are in the form of score histograms and provide richer and more precise information than binary labels or mean scores. In this talk I will present recent work at Naver Labs Europe on the rarely-studied problem of predicting aesthetic score distributions. The talk will cover the large-scale dataset we collected for this problem, called AVA, and will describe the novel deep architecture and training procedure for our score distribution model. Our model achieves state-of-the-art results on AVA for three tasks: (i) aesthetic quality classification; (ii) aesthetic score regression; and (iii) aesthetic score distribution prediction, all while using one model trained only for the distribution prediction task. I will also discuss our proposed method for modifying an image such that its predicted aesthetics changes, and describe how this modification can be used to gain insight into our model.


Lise Regnier, Lead Inventive Science and Architect at Warner Bros. Entertainment, France

On the usage of Data Science in Non technical Environment

In this talk, we present some strategies and methodologies we developed at Warner Bros to implement a data-driven culture. We explain how we got the cinema experts to appropriate themselves new tools such as predictive modelling, data-driven decision tools and the problems we encountered along the way.


Natasha Antropova, Research Engineer at Google DeepMind, London, UK

MRI image analysis

Deep learning has become the predominant choice for medical image analysis tasks. The methods have demonstrated high clinical value for various imaging modalities and diagnostic tasks, such as image segmentation and disease diagnosis and prognosis. In this talk, I will present a few projects from DeepMind Health Research that apply deep learning in clinical domains, including mammography, ophthalmology, and head and neck cancer. Furthermore, I will shortly present the methods and findings of my dissertation work on the breast cancer diagnosis based on dynamic MRIs.


Berenice Pila Diez, Senior Data Scientist at Boehringer Ingelheim, Aachen, Germany

Data Science for Improved Stroke Care

Acute Ischemic Strokes are the leading cause of acquired disabilities in adults in the developed world and the second cause of death overall. Although good therapies and drugs are available, diagnostic time and time-to-treatment are essential to improve the chances of full recovery in a patient. In this talk we introduce SCOPE, an AI and data science engine that has allowed to optimise the time-to-treatment of emergency patients in over 1,500 hospitals as part of the Angels Initiative.





Deniz Günaydin, Senior Data Scientist at Swiss Re, Zurich

Learning to recommend to help your clients with their paradox of choice

All the individuals are unique thanks to their experiences, tastes, goals and many other factors. Personalization has been the key differentiator for client advisors and sales people since ages by making their clients feel understood, empowered, and known. Today, considering the vast amount of items and digital footprint of users, powerful techniques of recommender systems generate personalized offers to retain customer satisfaction in the digital world. This talk will give practical ideas on how to build recommender systems for a company which does not have it integrated yet in their product offering. It will focus on an example use case for a real-life recommender system in financial services, emphasize the requirements and challenges, and discuss how they can be evaluated.


Anita Schmid, Data Scientist at Migros, Zurich, Switzerland

Engineering challenges in Data Science: It’s a Team Sport

While the core competence of Data Scientists used to be applying sophisticated statistical methods to one-shot data sets in order to produce analytical insights, more and more companies require data scientists to also participate in the development and deployment of data products which leverage Machine Learning algorithms. This requires a shift from a one-woman show to a team sport as well as a shift from pure analytics to engineering. In this talk, I will highlight the skills needed, both interpersonal as well as technical, to fulfill this challenging role successfully and contribute to a real-world impact of data science products.


Reka Solymosi, Lecturer in Quantitative Methods at the University of Manchester, UK

The role of innovative data collection methods in advancing understanding, and the importance of considering the biases within

Making use of openly available online, often crowdsourced data allow for new insights into people’s experiences and subjective perceptions. This can inform business and policy decisions, or simply further research and understanding into various domains, for example perception of place, or experiences with crime victimisation. For example, people reporting environmental antisocial behaviour using civic technology platforms can give insight into what people consider ‘signal disorders’ in their environment, and other platforms such as allow victims of crime to share their experiences anonymously, removing many barriers that prevent official reporting of sensitive crimes. Such data can complement traditional sources and offer another angle to identify spatial and temporal correlates of crimes and fear of crime. However there are various sampling and other issues associated with such data which may affect the conclusions that we can and cannot draw from them. It is important to highlight these issues, as well as explore ways to tackle them, to make the best use of such forms of data in our work.






Ruth Urner, Assistant Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada

An invitation to thinking about Machine Learning

Machine learning technologies are being used in various every-day life systems with a growing influence on science, industry and society. This makes it increasingly important for users and society to understand when and whether we can put trust in their predictions. In this talk I will outline which role machine learning theory has played traditionally in providing correctness guarantees for learning methods. However, the immense success of deep learning methods requires new tools for understanding their reliability and brought new challenges. I will argue why many of these new challenges, such as privacy or fairness issues, inherently require theoretical treatment.


Social Media Award
WiDS organisers

17:05 - 17:35

Closing remarks
Mirna Smidt





Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue
Gheistrasse 37
CH-8803 Rüschlikon

Read more about the Swiss Re Centre.

Conf room 9Y8A7071.jpg
Hallway CGD.jpg

How to get here?

The venue is 15 min of walk away from the Rüschlikon train station.
There will be shuttle buses running from the Rüschlikon train station to the venue in the morning and back after the last session of the day. Please make sure you arrive to the Rüschlikon station on time (7:50 earliest and no later than 8:20) if you want to take the shuttle bus.


Thursday, 04 April 2019

07:50 first ride from Rüschlikon train station to the conference venue
09:15 last ride to the conference venue

18:15 first ride from the venue to Rüschlikon
19:15 last ride from the venue to Rüschlikon

Friday, 05 April 2019

07:50 first ride from Rüschlikon train station to the conference venue
09:15 last ride to the conference venue

17:45 first ride from the venue to Rüschlikon
19:15 last ride from the venue to Rüschlikon


Child care and accessibility

We offer on-site child care to our participants in English and German. The service is run by the company Care4Kids from 8am to 6pm during conference days. Please let us know about the special needs of your child/children in the application form.

We are committed to making our conference a great experience for everyone. That also means we are doing our best to accommodate the special needs of the participants. The conference venue is fully accessible and the lunch area will be equipped with low tables for the participants in the wheelchair. In case we have hearing-impaired participants, the talks will be live captioned.