Michael Kennedy

Research Professor and Director

Michael Kennedy is a research professor of Neurobiology at Northwestern University and the founding director of Science in Society, the university’s research center for science education and public engagement. The center partners with urban K-12 teachers, administrators, and youth development agencies to create high-quality, long-term, impactful science learning opportunities for underserved youth.

Early in his academic career, Kennedy recognized a need for the University research mission to more deeply connect with the community, including training its scientists in public communication and community engagement.

In 2008, Kennedy partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and teachers in Chicago Public Schools to develop Science Club, a mentor-based afterschool program. Science Club brings Northwestern science graduate students together with underrepresented middle school youth throughout the academic year. Together, they tackle inquiry-based, curriculum-aligned projects in small groups, bridging in-school and out-of-school learning. The program was initially supported by a five-year, $1.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health and recently expanded to a second site. The Afterschool Alliance and Noyce Foundation honored Science Club with the 2013 STEM Impact Award, one of only two programs in the country to be recognized for excellence in afterschool education.

Beginning in 2015, Kennedy’s team is working with Chicago Public Schools to test a new, practicum-based, NGSS-aligned training program for third-grade teachers. Science Club Summer Camp uses an immersive, deeply-supported, long-term approach to science teaching and learning. Led by master teachers from CPS and Northwestern scientists, elementary teachers build understanding of the nature of science and confidence in using NGSS-aligned instructional strategies

Science Club and Science Club Summer Camp are two of the thirteen initiatives developed under Kennedy’s direction at Science in Society. All of them build long-term partnerships with community organizations and educators to collaboratively deliver inquiry-based science engagement for communities in need. In 2016, his center received a Phi Beta Kappa Society award for innovative efforts to build community connections through the natural sciences.

Kennedy is also a member of the National Academies Teacher Advisory Council, a twelve-member standing board comprised of K-12 teachers and educators from across the country. The Council is designed to bring the wisdom of instructional practice, both in school and out of school, to the education-related work of the Academy.

His previous positions at Northwestern include associate chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Physiology, director of education and outreach for the Center for Genetic Medicine, and, most recently, chief of staff at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Kennedy has a BS in chemistry from St. John's University and a PhD in biochemistry from the Mayo Clinic.

Visit the HELIX Magazine website for the latest in science news.

Science in Society has been publishing original articles, Q&As and blog posts by Northwestern faculty, students, staff and alumni in our online magazine since 2008.

Visit our online calendar to find science outreach events at Northwestern and in the Chicagoland area that are designed for the public.

From lectures to movie screenings to museum exhibits, science is happening near you. 

Like Science in Society on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay connected.

And sign up for our monthly newsletter to be informed of new articles, upcoming events and initiatives endorsed by Science in Society.