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Many engineering problems can be formulated as optimization problems. It has become more and more important to develop an efficient global optimization technique for solving these problems. In this paper, we propose an evolutionary tabu search (ETS) for cell image segmentation. The advantages of genetic algorithms (GA) and TS algorithms are incorporated into the proposed method. More precisely, we incorporate "the survival of the fittest" from evolutionary algorithms into TS. The method has been applied to the segmentation of several kinds of cell images. The experimental results show that the new algorithm is a practical and effective one for global optimization; it can yield good, near-optimal solutions and has better convergence and robustness than other global optimization approaches.