Rice Alumna Loren Hopkins ’89, ’98 receives Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award

Environmental scientist and statistician honored for her contributions to public health.

Loren Hopkins' head shot

The George R. Brown School of Engineering and the Rice Engineering Alumni board has named Loren Hopkins as one of the three recipients of the Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award. As a nationally recognized expert in environmental sciences and engineering, Hopkins has made significant contributions to public health.  

Since 2001, Hopkins has held a dual role with Rice University’s Department of Statistics and the Houston Health Department. In this role, she brings her knowledge of environmental processes, statistical analysis, human health risk and the principles of public health intervention to address health disparities. As the chief environmental science officer for the Houston Health Department, she leads the Data Services, Data Science, and Wastewater Sampling and Surveillance programs for the city and identifies environmental risks for vulnerable populations. Under Hopkins’ leadership, the bureau attracted national attention for its evaluation of pollution-related health risks due to environmental air pollutants that have been linked to heart disease and asthma. Hopkins and her team also analyzed the cancer-causing pollutant dioxin and bridged the data gap between the cancer cluster previously identified at the Union Pacific contamination site in Houston’s Fifth Ward. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hopkins’ expertise helped establish a multi-institutional wastewater surveillance system, which has been recognized as a National Wastewater Surveillance System Center of Excellence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Public health leadership uses these findings to make intervention decisions and improve Houston’s pandemic response for sensitive populations. Her work in this area and commitment to environmental justice has made her a national expert for the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and the EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Hopkins has also served as a visiting scientist at the CDC. 

Hopkins earned her B.S. in geology and geophysics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1986. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. in environmental science from Rice University in 1989 and 1998, respectively. 

The Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award was first presented by the Rice Engineering Alumni in 1974. It recognizes Rice engineering alumni for outstanding professional achievement and service to society. Hopkins and the other 2023 alumni award recipients will be honored at the 2024 George R. Brown School of Engineering Alumni Awards Celebration.