STEMinist Profile: Suzanne Kennedy, Ph.D., Director of Research and Development

Suzanne Kennedy

Suzanne Kennedy, Ph.D.

Director of Research and Development
MO BIO Laboratories

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I knew I wanted to be a scientist at a young age. My earliest memory of knowing that science would be my life was around 8 years old. My inspiration came from two sources. One was my dad. He loved science and taught me to ask questions, to be excited by nature and feel awe by the unknown and mysterious, such as outer space. He encouraged my love for science.

My father was also a devout Catholic and raised us to have respect for those things which we cannot understand but accept on faith. This fueled my desire to understand and question not just the physical world but everything about our existence including God and the origins of life. Between my upbringing and natural inquisitiveness, the seeds were planted and with it grew a life long love for science.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project I have worked on and am working on right now is the Earth Microbiome Project. This is an effort to identify and catalog all of the microbes on the planet. It is a massive effort headed by several dedicated labs to understand our earth in a much deeper way; to understand the microbes that keep this planet healthy and alive which will allow us to monitor changes to our earth microbiome and eventually know how to correct it. This information is vital for all of us. For the first time in earth’s history, we’ll know all the microbes that exist, where they live, and eventually, their function. I am very proud to be a part of this exciting program.

Role models and heroes:
My dad, and also there were many women science teachers in high school and college who were great role models for me. In regards to famous women scientists, Rosalind Franklin is my greatest inspiration, role model, and hero. Her amazing work led to one of the world’s most important discoveries, the structure of DNA. Rosalind’s impact on my daily life through her discovery is a constant reminder of how important women are to scientific progress. I am forever grateful to Rosalind for all she gave to science in her short life.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Follow your gut. Don’t doubt yourself, you’re probably right. Learn to take criticism but don’t let it hold you back or keep your enthusiasm away. You don’t have to agree with someone’s criticism of you. In fact, you shouldn’t believe any negative thing anyone ever says about you. Don’t let others tell you what you can and cannot do, what you are or are not capable of.

Keep all your professional relationships intact. You never know when you will have to work with that person again in the future. Science is a very small world. When someone treats you unkindly, remember, everyone has a bad day. Give them a free pass. And, when you make a mistake, forgive yourself. When you’re working hard, you’re going to make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.

Twitter: @suzyscientist

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