Former computer science and engineering student awarded Denise Denton Emerging Leader ABIE Award

Lydia TapiaDr. Lydia Tapia, former student from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, was awarded the Denise Denton Emerging Leader ABIE Award at the 2015 Grace Hopper Conference in Houston.

The Denise Denton Emerging Leader ABIE Award is presented by the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology to a junior faculty member at an academic or research institution who pursues high-quality research in engineering or physical sciences, demonstrates leadership capabilities and contributes to promoting diversity in his/her environment.

Tapia, assistant professor of computer science and director of the Adaptive Motion Planning Research Group at the University of New Mexico (UNM), received the award because of her research accomplishments, ability to overcome great personal challenges and her work with minority students.

While in graduate school at Texas A&M, Tapia suffered from two strokes causing her to lose the use of one arm, her sight and her ability to walk. One year later, after regaining her ability to walk, write and type, she returned to finish her doctorate degree in computer science.

In addition to leading a very successful research group, Tapia volunteers to introduce underprivileged youth to technology and robotics. She brings her research to the students with an interactive exhibit that allows the students to learn about robotics in an engaging environment.

At UNM, Tapia serves as a research mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students. Her research in methodologies for the simulation and analysis of motions has been published in numerous conference and journal publications. She is working to advance the fields of molecular binding and robotic obstacle avoidance. Through her research and mentorship, her goal is to give back to her students.

Tapia has started a women-in-computing group at UNM to help boost female involvement in computer science. While at Texas A&M, Tapia was a research and teaching assistant and served in numerous clubs and organizations.  

At Texas A&M, Tapia was a doctoral student under Dr. Nancy Amato, Unocal professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.  Her graduate thesis was titled “Intelligent Motion Planning and Analysis with Probabilistic Roadmap Methods for the Study of Complex and High-Dimensional Motions.”

Tapia received several awards while at Texas A&M for her impact in women’s progress, leadership, mentoring, and more. She graduated from the university in 2009 with her Ph.D. in computer science.