Drumming Engineer, A Writer at Heart
When Brad Henderson is not playing the drums in his Davis-based rock group Hardwater, he’s teaching writing classes for engineers and scientists at UC Davis.
The continuing lecturer in the University Writing Program took a circuitous route to UC Davis — one that has at times focused on engineering, creative writing and music. In college, he studied mechanical engineering by day and played gigs with a band by night. After graduation, he worked in industry and wrote several novels, poetry and a memoir.
“I’ve always felt I had this artist/writer inside, but I was always good at math and I like engineering,” said Henderson, whose father and grandfather both taught engineering at UC Davis. “I like system-level thinking and problem solving.”
Henderson, who has his M.F.A. in creative writing, published his first novel, Drums, in 1997. Told from a drummer’s point of view, it imagines one band’s quest for fame. In 2002, after nearly a decade at Hewlett-Packard, he returned to Davis for the position he holds today.
Most recently, Henderson saw the release of his latest book, A Math-Based Writing System for Engineers (2019, Springer Nature). In it, he details a writing method that he developed looking at grammar as math equations and documents as algorithms, all using technical examples.
“It uses math-based thinking, equations, symbols, and flowcharts to teach engineers word-based skills in a way that is user-friendly and universal for engineers,” Henderson explained.
This summer, he’ll balance his passion for engineering, writing and drumming by promoting his book, writing for his personal projects and going to drum camp. The camp for adults provides intensive instruction over the course of a week.
“As a drummer, I’ve played for a number of years and performed on stage,” said Henderson. “But there’s still so much for me to learn.”