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From Scientific Background to Film Career

 Jessica Hendrickson
(August 26, 2011) — Jessica Hendrickson 02F is poised to pursue a film career informed by her scientific background.

Hendrickson came to Hampshire desperate to be challenged academically. Hampshire’s use of written evaluations instead of letter grades appealed to her. “I could play the game of getting good grades, but I didn’t know if that was really effective learning for me,” she says. “I didn’t want to go a school that was 13th and 14th grade.”

Courses at Hampshire provided Hendrickson ample opportunity to explore all of her interests. She took classes that ranged from political science to media, to music, to culture. Then, she says, she found herself thinking: “What do I really love? What kind of environment do I want to work in? What kind of people do I want to work with?”

“I had an epiphany—I’d loved environmental and marine science growing up, and had lost touch with that at some point,” she says.

That epiphany paved the way for Hendrickson’s Division III (senior) project. She spent the spring semester of her third year studying with the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole and on a tall ship in the Caribbean. She followed that up by spending the summer and subsequent fall semester at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle studying the toxicity of a harmful algal species, sometimes erroneously referred to as “red tide.”

After graduation, Hendrickson continued in science, returning to NOAA as a volunteer. She landed a position as lab manager in a small lab that does a range of sample processing, from carbon dating of archeological samples to pharmacokinetics on brain cancer research drugs.

But, while she did not pursue it in school, Hendrickson also had a quiet interest in acting. “I know now that this is what I’ve always wanted to do and who I’ve always wanted to be,” she says.

Her first post-college acting experience was at a small community theatre, before she moved on to background work, commercials, voiceover work, web series, short films, television pilots, and an independent feature.

Hendrickson’s scientific background and love for film coalesced when she shadowed a group of international scientists researching phytoplankton in the San Juan Islands to produce a series of outreach episodes funded by NOAA. “Film is my medium for sharing science with the world,” she says. She plans to continue producing outreach projects with hopes to launch her own science show someday.

As she juggles a variety of projects across different formats and topics, Hendrickson points to Hampshire’s interdisciplinary approach as a point of inspiration.  “Hampshire taught me to justify bringing everything together, to be interdisciplinary,” she says. “Everything in life is integrated.”

More about Jessica Hendrickson’s career www.jessicahendrickson.com

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