Jan W. Hopmans was born and raised in the Netherlands, spending his teenage years on one of the delta islands in Zuidholland. He graduated with a master’s degree in hydrology from Wageningen University in 1981 and received his doctoral degree in 1985 from Auburn University in soil physics. Following a two-year postdoc at Wageningen, Hopmans became a professor in water management in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources (LAWR) at UC Davis in 1988. He served as vice chair in LAWR for four years, then chair (2005–2009), and was named Programmatic Associate Dean in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2009.
His research and teaching activities focus on the development of experimental and mathematical methods to better understand the fundamental processes controlling soil water flow and chemical transport, and include interests in plant root–soil water interactions, parameter optimization, regional irrigation water management, soil moisture sensor development, soil salinity, and climate change impacts on California’s hydrology. Recently, Hopmans’ research has focused on integrated studies, including NSF-funded programs of critical zone observatories (CZO) and biocomplexity. He also analyzes the sustainability of irrigated agriculture in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and the impacts of climate change on the valley’s soil and groundwater salinity. Other study areas include innovative microscale measurement techniques such as X-ray and thermal neutron CT in soils, and soil environmental stresses such as water and salinity on agricultural and natural ecosystems.
Hopmans has over 150 refereed publications. He is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and the American Geophysical Union, and he received the 2003 Soil Physics Don and Betty Kirkham Award. He is the editor of Vadose Zone Journal, since 2005.