Tapia is a mathematician and professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He is internationally known for his research in the computational and mathematical sciences and is a national leader in education and outreach programs.
Tapia’s current Rice positions are University Professor; Maxfield-Oshman Professor in Engineering; and Director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education.
Tapia was born in Los Angeles to parents who, separately, immigrated from Mexico as young teenagers in search of educational opportunities for themselves and for future generations. Tapia was the first in his family to attend college. He received B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics from the University of California-Los Angeles. In 1967 he joined the Department of Mathematics at UCLA and then spent two years on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin. In 1970 he moved to Rice University where he was promoted to associate professor in 1972 and full professor in 1976. He chaired the department from 1978-1983. He is currently an adjunct faculty member of Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston.
Tapia has authored or co-authored 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.
Due to 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 women and underrepresented minority Ph.D. recipients in the mathematical sciences. Thirty-five mathematics students have received, or are currently working on, the Ph.D. degree under his direction or co-direction. Of these 35 students, 15 have been women and 8 have been underrepresented minorities.
Under Tapia’s direction, Rice’s NSF-funded Alliances for Graduate Education in the Professoriate (AGEP) Program provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in science, mathematics, and engineering to participate in university activities and work for the summer under the guidance of researchers at Rice. Over the years Tapia has impacted hundreds of teachers through a summer program, TeacherTECH.