Texas Tech University

Jen Henderson

Jen Henderson is a disaster scholar and interdisciplinary social scientist who studies risk and uncertainty amid decision-making processes in weather and climate extremes. In particular, her passion is helping those who are invisible in disaster narratives be seen by policy makers, organizations, and agencies – those with the power to shift the status quo. Henderson works with experts in weather and climate prediction, such as forecasters in the National Weather Service, to improve warning and communication systems and to understand the many challenges faced by those who experience tornadoes, flash floods, drought, and hurricanes. In addition, she works with federal and local agencies to build knowledge about issues that emerge in expert decision spaces, such as producers in agriculture, outcomes of which have cascading impacts for members of different publics.

Prior to coming to Texas Tech as an assistant professor in Geosciences, Henderson worked as a research social scientist for the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in Boulder, Colorado. There, she studied overlapping, compound hazards like tornadoes and flash floods through social media analysis, and Covid-19 and heat through survey design, and helped theorize ways that threats are amplified and attenuated as people make decisions. She also worked with meteorologists and computer scientists in the Global Systems Division Lab in NOAA to co-produce decision support tools for government forecasters and their partners in emergency management. Her postdoctoral work with the Regional Sciences and Assessments group, Western Water Assessment, examined features of social and organizational practices that helped shape and were shaped by the dynamics of vulnerability and resilience to drought in Colorado and Utah. She is currently writing a book about the Japanese American scientist, Dr. Tetsuya "Ted" Fujita, famous for his eponymous F-Scale of tornado measurement and the discovery of the downburst. Henderson earned her Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia and holds an M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College.