Career Profiles: Mark Kennedy

What is your name?

Mark Kennedy

Company Information

Name of Company/Organisation you work for:

University College Cork

What is your position in the company/organisation?


Tell us a little about the company you work for and how it’s involved in the space sector

The astrophysics group within University College Cork is focused on answering fundamental questions about our Universe, from the origin and behaviour of super massive black holes during galaxy formation in the early Universe, to the formation processes behind exoplanets, to the study of the environments and evolution of neutron stars and black holes. To do this, we use space observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope, XMM-Newton and ESA’s GAIA mission.


Questions about your current Job

How did you get your current job?

After living and working in Manchester for 3 years, I decided that I wanted to return back to Ireland while continuing to do research in astrophysics. I applied for a Government of Ireland postdoctoral fellowship to study black holes within the Milky Way at University College Cork. This proposal was funded in 2021, and after being back in UCC for 1 year, I was offered the opportunity to start lecturing.

Describe a typical day.

I normally get into the office around 9am, and my first job it to look over observations from the previous night. I’m part of the GOTO collaboration ( which makes a map of the night sky every night. My first task is to help the international team that work on this project to sift through all of the data, looking for new objects in the night sky (that could be related to exploding stars or merging neutron stars; you can get involved too using After this, if it’s a day that I’m giving a lecture, I’ll go over my notes and make sure that I’m comfortable with the content of the lecture and how I’m going to present it. If I’m not lecturing, then I’ll spend the day working on my research projects, which typically involves reading papers, reducing data, or writing python code to interpret the data.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Yes it does. I try and enforce a pretty strict 9-5:15 schedule, such that I can keep up with my hobbies outside of work – I used to have many of these, but I adopted a dog in May of 2023, and now it feels like entertaining him is all I do outside of work!

What’s the coolest part of your job?

Realising that I’m the first person to be seeing a result is an incredible feeling. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it’s a very cool feeling. I also really enjoy observing. Before the pandemic, I used to travel in person to the telescopes that I work with, and the combination of beautifully clear skies and the remote nature of the observing sites made these very peaceful trips. Even though all my observing now happens remotely, it’s still an enjoyable part of the job.

Are there any elements of your job that you dislike?

Unfortunately, employment in academia is very precarious. I find myself having to write a funding proposal at least every 2 years, with the outcome of the proposal determining whether or not I’ll continue having this job. This constant pressure is exhausting and means that I’m often spending a lot of time not doing research, but instead writing about the research I would like to do in the future (and may not get to do at all).

Questions about education and training

What subjects did you take in school/college and how have these influenced your career path?

In school, I did physics, chemistry, French, and accounting as my optional choices. The entire reason I ended up in astrophysics is because I studied physics for the leaving certificate, as it’s where I found my passion for the subject. Then, in college, I did CK408 (Physics & Astrophysics) in University College Cork. This had a huge impact on my life, as I ended up doing my PhD in UCC as well.

What non-technical skills are necessary for your job?

Communication is very important. A lecturer is expected to deliver interesting and engaging lectures to undergraduate students, write clear and concise papers about their research, and be able to give easy to follow and engaging public talks to a general audience. Also, developing leadership is very important, as often academics end up acting as project managers for the students and post-doctoral researchers in their team.

How did you develop those 21st Century Skills?

I developed these skills through serious trial and error – by putting myself out there, and if things went wrong, just trying again. Particularly my communication skills came from signing up to public speaking programs (like Famelab when it was still running – and I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here  ( In short, if people ask me to participate in something, I always try and say yes if I can, as every new experience ends up helping to develop these types of skills.

Questions about yourself

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

I think the day I was awarded my PhD. This was the culmination of 4 years hard work, and I was fortunate enough to celebrate it with my family and closest friends.

What is your dream job?

I’m already doing it!

Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice

What advice would you give to someone considering this job? Are there important personal characteristics, or good work experience they can undertake for example.

It’s never too early to start asking questions. Whenever anyone explains something to you, if you didn’t understand it, ask them to explain it clearer – you’d be amazed the number of people around you who will also have struggled to understand it. Asking questions is the most important skill a scientist needs, and it’s something that’s very hard to develop other than by practicing it!