My name is Jen Henderson and I'm a social scientist and disaster scholar who studies the weather warning process. As an ethnographer, I learn from meteorologists about how they conduct the day-to-day operations of keeping people safe from severe weather. As a hazards geographer, I examine the spatiotemporal dimensions of vulnerability and resilience; and I write about the historical people who influence forecasting today. That is, I consider different technical, ethical, and sociopolitical issues that arise as these experts interact with different kinds of publics. At its most basic, I follow those experts who follow the weather.
I have been fascinated with weather since I was twelve-years-old when I saw a waterspout flit across the Great Salt Lake in Utah. I had never seen anything so delicate and powerful before. Ever since then, I've found myself drawn to the skies, whether it's a simple summer thunderstorm flooding the gutters in my childhood neighborhood or a massive tornadic supercell spinning like a top over the red dirt of Oklahoma.
I've been an interdisciplinarian since high school when I realized I was torn between multiple subjects: English and microbiology. I spent my time studying both until I entered college and added a third interest: psychology. Split between these three areas, I came up with a plan. I double majored in English and Psychology and got a minor in microbiology. This trend of interdisciplinarity continues in my research where I find the combination of anthropology, geography, and history invigorating and satisfying.
Before returning to graduate school, I studied creative nonfiction at Goucher College, where I received my MFA, writing essays, poems, and articles for different magazines. I continue to enjoy the craft, especially as I embark on a non-traditional biography of Dr. "Ted" Fujita. My most recent essay about my experience storm chasing with a group of Virginia Tech undergraduate meteorology students, "What We Chase," is available in the autumn 2013 issue of The American Scholar. Other writings are available on this site, too, including my Curriculum Vitae.