Renowned mathematician Richard Tapia— a champion of under-represented minorities in the sciences—will receive the National Medal of Science, the highest honor bestowed by the government on U.S. scientists, engineers and inventors.
The 72-year-old professor of engineering, computing and applied mathematics at Rice University in Houston, along with six other medal recipients, will be honored at a ceremony at the White House later this month.
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In a special statement from the White House, Tapia was cited “for his pioneering and fundamental contributions in optimization theory and numerical analysis and for his dedication and sustained efforts in fostering diversity and excellence in mathematics and science education.”
According to Rice President David Leebron, where Tapia has served as a faculty member since 1970, “he is recognized across the country as the person who has helped countless students, particularly Hispanic and African-American students, overcome obstacles and succeed in graduate studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
The National Medal of Science has been awarded annually since 1959 to those “deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences.” In 1980, the recognition was expanded to include the social and behavioral sciences. To date, 468 distinguished scientists and engineers have received the honor.
Tapia, a Mexican immigrant raised in Los Angeles, was the first in his family to attend college.