Michael Kennedy received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Saint John's University in 1991, followed by his doctorate in biochemistry from the Mayo Clinic in 1997. He then moved to Northwestern University, where his postdoctoral work focused on the biophysical properties of cationic lipids used as vehicles for gene-based therapies. In 1998 he joined Northwestern's Department of Neurobiology and Physiology as assistant chair, where he remained until his move to the Center for Genetic Medicine in 2006.
In collaboration with Albert Farbman, Kennedy initiated one of Northwestern’s first annual public outreach events, the Science Outreach Series, geared towards informing citizens of developments in the life sciences. This annual event brought internationally prominent speakers to Northwestern’s campus to lecture on topics including the Human Genome Project, stem cell biology, human cloning, genetically modified foods, global warming, and neuroimaging.
Through his work with the Science Outreach Series, Kennedy recognized a need to provide the public with an easy way to find educational events at the university. His idea evolved into Science in Society, a much broader web resource designed to communicate advances in science and their impact on society. After directing its initial design and implementation, Kennedy now serves as the editor for the site.
Kennedy's interest in science education extends into his work with Northwestern's undergraduates. In 1999 he helped establish a peer-led biology workshop to address the performance of students in Northwestern’s sophomore biology curriculum. In the classroom, Kennedy taught a highly-rated and innovative undergraduate bioethics course focused on a wide range of genetically-related issues including genetic testing, stem cell biology, and human cloning. He won an Associated Student Government teaching award in 2005.
Most recently, Kennedy founded Science Club, an after-school science program for middle school youth, developed in collaboration with the Robert R. McCormick Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. The program is supported by a 5-year, $1.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health. He is also a faculty fellow in Northwestern’s residential college system, a program designed to extend the learning environment of the classroom to extracurricular life.