A. Tapia, University Professor and Maxfield-Oshman Professor of Engineering,
Rice University was born in Los Angeles to parents who emigrated from Mexico
when they were children, seeking educational opportunities. He was the first in
his family to attend college, earning his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in
mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. Due to his efforts,
Rice University has received national recognition for its educational outreach
programs, and the Rice Computational and Applied Mathematics Department has
become a national leader in producing women and underrepresented minority
Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences.
Tapia’s honors include: election to the National Academy of Engineering (1992)
for his seminal work in interior point methods; being the first recipient of the
A. Nico Habermann Award from the Computing Research Association (1994) for
outstanding contributions in aiding members of underrepresented groups within
the computing community; the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science,
Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Bill Clinton (1996);
appointment by President Clinton to the National Science Board, the governing
body of the National Science Foundation (1996); the Lifetime Mentor Award from
the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1997); and the
establishment of a lecture series to honor Dr. Tapia and African American
mathematician David Blackwell at Cornell University (2000). The Richard
Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing honors his many contributions to diversity (2001).
He received the Hispanic Engineer of the Year Award from Hispanic Engineer
Magazine in 1996, and was inducted into the Hispanic Engineer National
Achievement Awards Conference Hall of Fame in 1997. Hispanic Engineer &
Informational Technology Magazine also selected him as one of the 50 Most
Important Hispanics in Technology and Business for 2004. That same year Dr.
Tapia was inducted into the Texas Science Hall of Fame.
Tapia has been named one of 20 most influential leaders in minority math
education by the National Research Council; listed as one of the 100 most
influential Hispanics in the U.S. by Hispanic Business magazine (2008); and
given the “Professor of the Year” award by the Association of Hispanic School
Administrators, Houston Independent School District, Houston, Texas. In 2005,
Tapia was elected to the Board of Directors for TAMEST, comprising the Texas
members of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences
and the Institute of Medicine. In 2009, Tapia received the Hispanic Heritage Award for Math and Science.