Illya Hicks awarded Blackwell-Tapia Prize

Hicks recognized for his applied mathematics research, contributions to diversity and outreach.

Illya Hicks

Illya Hicks, professor and department chair of computational applied mathematics and operations research (CMOR) at Rice, is the recipient of the 2024 Blackwell-Tapia Prize.

The prize recognizes Hicks for his contributions to applied mathematics and his service as a “role model for mathematical scientists and students from underrepresented groups.”

Hicks joined the Rice faculty in 2007. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in computational and applied mathematics from Rice in 2000, and for six years was a member of the Industrial and Systems Engineering faculty at Texas A&M University.

In his research, Hicks focuses on combinatorial optimization, graph theory and integer programming. He is known for his work on the Robertson-Seymour graph decomposition theory, the development of techniques to uncover cohesive structure in sparse graphs, and the computational study of the zero-forcing problem to understand the propagation of information in networks.

Hicks has served as CMOR department chair since 2021. At Rice, he is a member of the Analyzing Diversity Curriculum Committee and an adviser to the Black Graduate Student Association and the undergraduate chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. In 2015, he received the Presidential Mentoring Award from Rice and the Marjorie Corcoran Award this spring.

He serves as vice president of education for the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences, where he has held several positions related to his research, diversity and outreach.

Hicks is a member of the Mathematical Optimization Society, the National Association of Mathematicians, the American Mathematical Society, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

The prize, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, is named for the late David H. Blackwell, statistician and mathematician, and Richard Tapia, Rice University Professor, professor of CMOR and founding director of the Center for Excellence and Equity in Education at Rice.

Hicks will formally receive the prize at the 12th Blackwell-Tapia Conference and Award Ceremony held Nov. 15-16 at the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics at Brown University.