The subject of Tapia's lecture will be "Post-Affirmative Action Challenges to Diversity in Higher Education." His appearance at Caltech is sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of Minority Student Education, the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Officers of the Faculty. The lecture is part of the President's Lecture Series on Achieving Diversity in Science, Math, and Engineering.
Tapia is internationally known for his research in the computational and mathematical sciences, but is also a leading voice in the effort to increase educational opportunities for minorities and women in the math, science, and engineering fields. A native of Los Angeles, Tapia earned his doctorate from UCLA, where he also served on the faculty.
Prior to joining the Rice faculty in 1970, he also taught at the University of Wisconsin. At Rice, he chaired the department of mathematical sciences from 1978 to 1983, and is also an adjunct faculty member of the Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston.
Because of Tapia's efforts, Rice has received national recognition for its educational outreach programs, and the Rice computational and applied mathematics department has become a national leader in producing female and underrepresented minority Ph.D. recipients in the mathematical sciences. Tapia has directed or codirected 37 Ph.D. students, including 16 women and 13 underrepresented minority students. Tapia also influences hundreds of teachers through two summer programs run by his Center for Excellence and Equity in Education, the Mathematical and Computational Sciences Awareness Workshop and GirlTECH, a program aimed at getting girls interested in computer science.
Tapia has written or cowritten two books and over 80 mathematical research papers. He has delivered numerous invited addresses at national and international mathematical conferences, and serves on several national advisory boards. He has received many awards, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (1996), the Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1997), the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (2000), and the Reginald H. Jones Distinguished Service Award from the National Action Council for Minority Engineers (2001).
A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Richard Tapia is the first native-born Hispanic to be selected.