Richard A. Tapia is an American mathematician and champion of under-represented minorities in the sciences. In recognition of his broad contributions, in 2005, Tapia was named “University Professor” at Rice University in Houston, Texas, the University’s highest academic title. The honor has been bestowed on only six professors in Rice’s one-hundred-five-year history. On September 28, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that Tapia was among twelve scientists to be awarded the National Medal of Science, the top award the United States offers its researchers. Tapia is currently the Maxfield and Oshman Professor of Engineering; Associate Director of Graduate Studies, Office of Research and Graduate Studies; and Director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice University.
Tapia’s mathematical research is focused on mathematical optimization and iterative methods for nonlinear problems. His current research is in the area of algorithms for constrained optimization and interior point methods for linear and nonlinear programming.
Tapia is also a founding member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).