The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Gregory Jenkins

Atmospheric scientist Gregory S. Jenkins was born on May 13, 1963 in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child, Jenkins was fascinated by the weather. He received his B.S. degree in physics from Lincoln University in Lincoln, Pennsylvania in 1987. Jenkins went on to earn his M.S. and his Ph.D. degrees in atmospheric science from the University of Michigan in 1989 and 1991, respectively. His doctoral thesis was entitled, “An Investigation of Archean Climate using the NCAR CCM.”

In 1991, Jenkins began a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Center for Atmospheric Science (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Two years later, he became a research associate at the Earth Systems Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. In 1996, Jenkins served for a semester as an assistant professor of physics at Howard University before joining Pennsylvania State University as an assistant professor in the Department of Meteorology. He was promoted to associate professor at Pennsylvania State University in 2003. In the same year, he received the J. William Fulbright Research Award to go to Senegal and worked at Cheikh Anta Diop University on climate change research. Jenkins returned to Howard University in 2004 as an associate professor and director of Howard University’s Atmospheric Science Program. In 2006, he served as a United States African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA) committee member and downstream Special Observing Period 3 (SOP3) member. From 2007 to 2010, he held the position of Department of Physics and Astronomy chair. Jenkins’ research focused on tropical storm systems, monsoons and hurricanes. He has travelled all over the world to conduct his research including Senegal, Cape Verde and Barbados. Jenkins has published over forty peer-reviewed publications and was an editor and contributor to the text The Extreme Proterozoic: Geology, Geochemistry and Climate .

Jenkins has held memberships in the American Meteorological Society, National Society of Black Physicists, American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and served as an associated editor for AGU-Journal of Geophysical Research. He was the recipient of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award and the National Technical Association (NTA) Technical Achiever of the Year Award. Jenkins lives in Washington, D.C.

Gregory S. Jenkins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 29, 2012.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category
Marital Status



Lincoln University

University of Michigan

St. Agatha Elementary School

West Philadelphia Catholic High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

Senegal, West Africa

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Ceebu Jen

Short Description

Atmospheric scientist Gregory Jenkins (1963 - ) , a leader in the study of tropical weather systems and hurricanes, served as the director of Howard University’s Atmospheric Science Program and a committee member of United States African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA).


National Center for Atmospheric Research

Pennsylvania State University

Howard University

Penn State University

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gregory Jenkins's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gregory Jenkins lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gregory Jenkins describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gregory Jenkins describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his father's experience in the U.S. Army

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his family and growing up in Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gregory Jenkins describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gregory Jenkins describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his childhood interest in science and weather

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gregory Jenkins talks about going to Catholic schools and his experience in Catholic church growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his interest in the weather

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his interest in math and science and his lack of interest in English in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his family struggles

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his high school experience, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his high school experience, part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his sister, Renee and the influence she had on him.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his interest in basketball

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his lack of guidance for college

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his academically challenging experiences at Drexel University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his experience at Philadelphia Community College and decision to attend Lincoln University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his mentors at Lincoln University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his road trip to Michigan and his mentor, atmospheric scientist Warren Washington

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gregory Jenkins describes his dissertation research concerning the Archean climate

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gregory Jenkins talks about the importance of cultural communities within academic institutions

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his experience at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, part 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his experience at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his experiences at Pennsylvania State University and Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his West African climate change research

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his professional activities and publications

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his passion for his work in Africa

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Gregory Jenkins talks about Africa's influence on weather events

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Gregory Jenkins talks about the equipment needed to conduct his research and impediments to conducting his research in Senegal

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his experience at the American Meteorological Society Conference

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Gregory Jenkins talks about the lack of sustainable infrastructure in disenfranchised communities

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Gregory Jenkins talks about African contributions to the academy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Gregory Jenkins talks about the documentary on the 2010 Hurricane Field Campaign

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Gregory Jenkins talks about including his students in his research and field studies abroad

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Gregory Jenkins reflects upon his life and legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Gregory Jenkins talks about the issues surrounding climate change and Africa's significance in understanding it

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Gregory Jenkins talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Gregory Jenkins talks about the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Gregory Jenkins talks about how he would like to be remembered







Gregory Jenkins talks about his childhood interest in science and weather
Gregory Jenkins talks about the issues surrounding climate change and Africa's significance in understanding it
Okay, so when you were a kid growing up, what were you mainly interested in doing, and what did you do? What was your personality like?$$The thing is, I was always interested in the stuff that typical kids are interested in. I wanted to be on the basketball court. I loved Dr. "J" [Julius Erving, Philadelphia 76ers]. I love all of it, okay. And that was just part of me, but there was this curiosity for science and mainly, weather, nature. I had a really, I have a good friend. His dad would take me and my brother to, and John, my friend, his son, to the University of Penn [Pennsylvania], and we'd go to the Observatory and, you know, to gaze at the stars. That, that along with my interests of weather, you know, something that was always there. I mean like, for weather, you didn't really have to go far. You could go outside your door and you could see, wow, these are really big, violent thunderstorms or two feet of snow. I mean it was there. So it was like, the laboratory was already there for me. So that was always a curiosity, and I was, I was constantly interested in learning more and more about it. So I would go to the free library, which was kind of far away, but I would check out books about weather. And, you know, I'd look at these equations. I'm like, what are--how is this related to (laughter) understanding this phenomena? Their books were always too far above me in terms of the math, like, hum, I didn't know what Calculus was at that time. But my interests was always there. So my interest in natural, in physical sciences were always there. As far, I mean I don't know how far back that goes. But it's just always been part of me even to this day. So I feel the same way if you see me in West Africa, and I'm looking at these forecasts. I'm looking at the satellite images of this big dust storm that's projected to come two days away, and I'm excited. I'm waking up in the morning. I'm taking pictures of the sun. I'm, I was the same way before a big snowstorm, like when is it gonna happen? Okay, why didn't it happen? Okay, why did it rain instead of snow? You know, these are always things that drove me, in addition to basketball and all the other stuff that kids do.$$So you've always been interested in the weather.$$Yeah.$$Is there any, your friend's father, you said--$$Yeah.$$--did he work for the Observatory?$$No, he just, he would--$$He just liked to take the kids to the--$$He had colleagues at Penn [Pennsylvania State University]. I mean he didn't work down at Penn, but he had colleagues there, and I used to think he was also a science enthusiast. So I think it was just something that he did anyway. And, for me, it was like, you know, this is great stuff, like--and I think that living in the city, you often don't see enough of the sky. But I was often like interested, like there's the "Belt of Orion". Why is it here in January, but then other times of year, I can't see it that well? Why did it move? You know, those were more curiosities, not knowing that it was the Belt of Orion, just like the way the stars lined up or they lined up or why is this--which I didn't know it was Venus at the time, why is it so bright? You know, what is it, and there was not really enough. There was no one I could talk to and say, you know, is that Venus over there? But the main thing was the library and then once in a while being able to go down to the Observatory to feed your, to feed your hunger for knowledge.$$So the Observatory was at the Franklin Institute or--$$It wasn't in the Franklin. It was on the University of Penn's campus. Now, I did go to the Franklin Institute. I did go to the Natural Academy of Sciences. I loved going to those places. Those were places where I felt like, wow, this is right where I belong, yeah.$Okay, now, do you have a big project ahead of you that you would to, is there something that you could wrap up that you'd wanna do before you, you know, or do you see things in more of an ongoing--$$I think it's always ongoing. The key question for climate change that I'm really trying to struggle with is will it be wetter or drier? And there are competing hypothesis that I would like to test out over the next few years. I still won't know 'cause we have to see it play out (laughter). That's the only thing, but it would certainly be nice to tell policymakers, this is where our confidence is. You know, we feel pretty strongly about this, and we feel pretty strongly about that. But my, my intuition tells me, Mother Earth is not gonna tell us that, that we're going to have to be aware. It's gonna be happening in real time. You're gonna know after the fact, but you'd better prepare for all scenarios. You'd better think about protecting all of your citizens. On another angle with respect to atmospheric chemistry, we've been looking at the role of dust and how it changed ozone, a major, is the greenhouse gas, but it's also a pollutant. And we've seen some just amazing stuff from Africa that lightening, the lightening stroke itself produces so much natural ozone above 8,000, 10,000, 12,000 feet, like, like, just amazing, just, it, you cannot predict. You can only observe. Our observations that we've taken over the last two years, have just blown us away. We're trying to contextualize that in terms of the science that we know and the processes that we know. But we know that there is so much to it, that, like, I will never, I won't be here to fully appreciate all of that. But it's leaving so much room for new scholars to say, look, we're gonna go out. We're gonna need aircraft. We're gonna go explore. We're gonna try to understand this. We're gonna develop a new model. We're gonna do that, we're gonna do that. So much. There's such a, such a wealthy--Africa is wealthy not just for minerals and oil and all those other things. It's wealthy because of its people. It's wealthy because of the knowledge that it's constantly teaching you. You know, it's not, there is no end of the chapter. The book never closes.