Over the last few years, evolutionary computation research has shown increasing interest in including some aspect of epigenetics. For example:
A 2008 paper by Tanev and Yuta
Work from Lee Spector's genetic programming group
A recent paper by Ricalde and Banzhaf
A genetic algorithm is an algorithm, based on natural selection (the process that drives biological evolution), for solving both constrained and unconstrained optimization problems.
A memetic algorithm is an extension of the concept of a genetic algorithm that uses a local search technique to reduce the likelihood of premature convergence.
The paper A ...
Here you can find an example of how to apply genetic algorithms to solve the 8-queens problem.
The proposed fitness function is based on the chessboard arrangement, and in particular, it is inversely proportional to the number of clashes amongst attacking positions of queens; thus, a high fitness value implies a low number of clashes.