Tapia promoted to University Professor

CONTACT: Jade Boyd
PHONE: (713) 348-6778
E-MAIL: jadeboyd@rice.edu

Tapia promoted to University Professor
Hispanic pioneer earns university’s top academic title

Rice University today announced the promotion of Richard Tapia to the school’s highest academic title of University Professor.

Tapia becomes only the sixth person and the first mathematician named University Professor in the 94-year history of Rice.

Tapia joined Rice’s faculty in 1970. He is an award-winning mathematician and the first Hispanic named to the nation’s highest scientific governing body, the National Science Board. He is also the first Hispanic elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering.

“Appointments to the rank of University Professor are reserved for exceptionally eminent faculty whose experience and interests suit them for a broad role in the intellectual life of the university,” Rice President David Leebron said. “The stature of Richard Tapia’s scientific accomplishments is matched by his passion for and commitment to improving the opportunities for under represented minorities in science and engineering education.”

Tapia has also been awarded the Maxfield and Oshman Professorship in Engineering. He also serves as Rice’s associate director of graduate studies and director of the university’s Center for Excellence and Equity in Education.

“Rice University has provided an excellent environment for me to pursue my dreams and objectives,” Tapia said. “Over the years, the administration has been unusually supportive of my programs and of my ideas. I am deeply honored by this recognition; it validates the activities that I believe in and represent.”

Tapia is internationally renowned for his research in numerical optimization methods. He has authored or co-authored two books and more than 80 research papers and directly supervised 31 doctoral students.

Tapia’s service to Rice includes a longstanding commitment to the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics, which he helped found and build. Tapia served as chair of CAAM from 1978-1983.

Nationally, Tapia is best known for his efforts to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering. In 1996, his longstanding efforts earned the Presidential Award for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. That same year, he again earned White House recognition when he was appointed by President Clinton to the National Science Board.

Tapia is a founding member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), the premier professional organization for Hispanic and Native American scientists. He also is an original member of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas (TAMEST) and a member of the Texas Science Hall of Fame.

Tapia’s leadership has also earned Rice national accolades for its minority outreach programs. He is the director of the university’s Alliances for Graduate Education in the Professoriate Program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. This highly recognized program provides opportunities for both undergraduates and graduate students in science, math and engineering to participate in university activities and work for the summer under the guidance of Rice faculty researchers.

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