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The American Association of Immunologists

Past AAI Presidents' Messages

Dan R. Littman, M.D., Ph.D. (AAI President, 2015-16)

I feel privileged and grateful to have the opportunity to serve as President of The American Association of Immunologists (AAI) during the coming year. I am particularly fortunate to take on this position at a time when the study of immunology is more exciting than ever and provides ever-growing prospects for clinical benefit. My first exposure to immunology was as an undergraduate, when I became fascinated by the big questions of how antibody diversity is generated, how T cells recognize antigen, and how immune tolerance is achieved. Even though we now have a deep understanding of these fundamental problems, many new questions continue to arise, particularly as it has become evident that functions of the immune system are critical in numerous chronic human diseases. The intersection of immunology with a growing number of disciplines guarantees that there will be many fascinating challenges for the next generation of talented young investigators to explore. The AAI will play an increasingly important role in helping to raise awareness of the importance of such research and ensure there is sustained funding for it. I hope you will join me in supporting the AAI in this important work. (read more…)

Linda A. Sherman, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2014-15)

It is a great honor to serve as President of AAI, and I am grateful to all of you for this opportunity to serve an organization that has been an integral part of my career for over 30 years. When I first started out as an immunologist, the AAI annual meeting provided an opportunity to meet the people behind the names in journal articles and to network with other postdocs in the field. Later, I was proud to be selected to speak in workshops and later still, in symposia. Also, the first opportunities I received to review manuscripts were provided by our scientific journal, The Journal of Immunology. I am always still proud when I see my papers published in The JI. It is the one journal that all immunologists hold in high regard because it consistently maintains high quality and, importantly, is unparalleled in the fairness of its review policies and the expertise of its reviewers. We are fortunate to have had a long line of devoted editors, including our new Editor-in-Chief, Pam Fink, maintain these standards. (read more…)

Marc K. Jenkins, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2013-14)

YOU HAVE THE POWER! Imagine a line graph showing the amount of fun a scientist has at his or her job on the Y-axis, and the years they have been in the field on the X-axis. In my case, the fun values were very high during my graduate school days as I got a first taste of immunology research and thrived on the scientific enthusiasm of my Ph.D. advisor, Steve Miller. The fun values remained high when I was a postdoc with Ron Schwartz in the intense and exciting scientific environment of the Laboratory of Immunology at NIH. I was also still having fun as a new assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, calling the shots as I started my independent research program, advising students, and doing professor "stuff." The fun dropped a bit with the decline in the NIH pay line in the early 1990s but came back in spades during the doubling of the NIH budget from 1998 to 2003. Unfortunately, I have to admit that my "fun line" has had a downward slope since 2003, and that's a bummer since the fun and excitement of science are big reasons many of us are in the business. (read more…)

Gail A. Bishop, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2012-13)

It is my great pleasure and honor to serve the community of immunologists as AAI President in this, the 100th anniversary year of The American Association of Immunologists (AAI). Many of us have "grown up" as scientists in The AAI, publishing our work in The Journal of Immunology (The JI) and presenting our newest results at the annual AAI meeting. The AAI has a long and highly successful history of promoting immunology and advancing the careers of its many members. Highlights of that history will be on view at the upcoming 2013 AAI meeting. AAI now enjoys the work and insights of its own staff historian, John Emrich, who will provide us with a valuable perspective on the development of the field of immunology, its leaders and innovators. (read more…)

Leslie J. Berg, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2011-12)

For decades, the basic biomedical research enterprise in the U.S. has flourished as a result of increased federal funding, expanding university and medical school biology and biomedical science departments, and a proliferation of graduate level training programs. Since 1974, this expansion of research has been evidenced in a substantial increase in original research published (PubMed lists over 248,000 articles published in 1975, and more than 918,000 articles published in 2010), and a more than two-fold increase in the number of Ph.D.s trained in the life sciences (fewer than 5,000 doctorates were conferred in the life sciences in1974 versus more than 11,000 in 2009). (See www.nsf.gov/statistics/doctorates/pdf/sed1994.pdf and www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf11306/appendix/pdf/tab38.pdf.) While 40 years may represent just 1–2 generations, it amounts to somewhere between 4–6 generations of new scientists trained; thus, one often hears colleagues refer to their scientific "children," "grandchildren," and even "great-grandchildren." (read more…)

Jeffrey Frelinger, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2010-11)

I am honored to be able to serve as the 94th president of AAI. AAI is THE professional organization for immunologists and to be able to lead this wonderful group of scientists is indeed a great honor. I am humbled to be following in the footsteps of such distinguished immunologists as Karl Landsteiner, Michael Heidelberger, Elvin Kabat and my own mentor, Don Schreffler.

I remember the precise moment that I fell in love with immunology. Dick Dutton was being recruited to UCSD, where I was an undergraduate, and I went to his seminar. Until then I was completely engaged in developmental biology. After I heard Dick's talk, I thought, "Here is a simple system where I can study development in mammals." I was partly right, but not about the simple part. (read more…)

Betty A. Diamond, M.D. (AAI President, 2009-10)

It is a privilege to assume the presidency of the AAI this year, just as it was a privilege to be accepted for membership in the AAI over three decades ago. During these past 30 years, I have been much advantaged by my relationship with AAI. The annual meeting has been a venue for listening to the progress of immunology, meeting others at the same stage of career, telling my own scientific story, and bonding with other women scientists. The annual meeting continues to be a great event, where we welcome young investigators, learn from our colleagues, and show our appreciation to the field's luminaries. (read more…)

Arthur Weiss, M.D., Ph.D. (AAI President, 2008-09)

It is a great honor and privilege to serve as the President of AAI during this coming year. Ever since I was a graduate student 30 years ago, I've admired the leaders of AAI as great scientists who commanded respect for their achievements. To be counted among them is truly a great honor. During the last five years, I've also learned a great deal from my colleagues on the Council who have preceded me as AAI Presidents (Laurie Glimcher, Suzy Swain, Paul Allen, Lewis Lanier and Olja Finn). They have provided service to AAI through their many hours of hard work, thoughtful consideration, and sense of responsibility in preparing AAI for the future. I feel very privileged to have an up-close view of their terrific stewardship and vision and hope to follow their lead. Fortunately, I also have an incredibly dedicated and skilled Executive Director of AAI, Michele Hogan, to work with during the coming year. (read more…)

Olivera J. (Olja) Finn, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2007-08)

It was a great honor and a source of pride for me to be elected AAI Councilor five years ago. Even though I knew that this election meant that I would eventually take over the presidency of our organization for a year, that year seemed very far away. Until that time came, I was comforted by knowledge that as a Councilor I would have plenty of time to learn from my colleagues on Council what are the important issues to AAI members and how to best advocate for them. I also intended to learn as much as possible from watching first hand several presidents ahead of me who successfully presided over our organization, Paul Kincade (2002-2003), Laurie Glimcher (2003-2004), Suzy Swain (2004-2005), Paul Allen (2005-2006) and Lewis Lanier (2006-2007). I have been humbled by all of them. Each one of them has left a mark on our organization by steering it in a slightly different direction specific to their strengths and convictions, but always decidedly forward. (read more…)

Lewis L. Lanier, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2006-07)

It is quite an honor to serve as president of the AAI this year. I joined the AAI while a postdoctoral fellow in 1980, have greatly benefited in many ways from the AAI, and am glad to be able to "give back" by service to a truly outstanding organization.

Of its many contributions to science, I would like to highlight three key areas in which AAI excels – Education, Communication, and Public Advocacy – to promote scholarship and research in immunology. (read more…)

Paul M. Allen, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2005-06)

I am honored and excited about being the AAI president. As an organization, AAI is in great shape, due to the dedicated efforts of the members and staff. I thank everybody for their contributions and for helping our professional society continue to thrive. AAI represents you and your interests in Washington and there are several issues that are important to us all and will be the focus of my tenure as AAI president.

The first area involves launching the careers of the next generation of scientists. I would like to continue the efforts of my predecessors in strongly supporting the development of young scientists, especially women. (read more…)

Susan L. Swain, Ph.D.. (AAI President, 2004-05)

I assumed the AAI helm at a challenging time for biomedical research and for those who would choose life sciences research for their career. On the positive side, biomedical research continues to be a priority for the American public and the Congress, where it attracts support from politicians of all stripes. NIH is being funded at an all-time high, with its budget more than doubling in the last 6 years alone [to an expected Fiscal Year 2005 budget of more than $28 billion]. The budget for the NIAID, which funds the work of so many immunologists, has skyrocketed since 1986, increasing from $625 million to $6.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2004. And through the work of AAI and many of its members, there is increasing understanding among elected officials and the public that immunology is at the heart of protection against infectious diseases, autoimmunity, and cancer, and is essential to advancing needed biodefense research. (read more…)

Laurie H. Glimcher, M.D. (AAI President, 2003-04)

After only a short time on the job, I'm surprised already at the volume of material that has come from Washington. Most of it deals with issues that are highly relevant to members of AAI, and I'd like to share some of them with you. Some of this material, as might be expected, deals with the 2004 and 2005 NIH budgets. We already know about 2004 – and the news so far isn't good – and my guess is that the 2005 budget will continue the trend of much smaller increases than we became accustomed to during the previous 5 years of the "doubling". Since a lot of the increases went into new "big science" programs, I'm concerned that the smaller increases will mean a continuation in the trend to feed such programs at the expense of growing the individual investigator-initiated grant pool. (read more…)

A recent Washington Post headline confirms my worst fear: "Budget Envisions Long-Term Cuts" (Washington Post, February 6, 2004; page A21).

According to the Post, "the Bush Administration's plan to cut the deficit in half within five years envisions an unprecedented long-term spending clamp-down that would continue well beyond 2005 for hundreds of popular domestic programs, according to an unpublished White House budget document. A 999-page Office of Management and Budget computer printout suggests that low-income education programs, medical research at the National Institutes of Health, grants to local law enforcement agencies, job training and other popular programs could be subject to freezes or cuts at least through 2009." (read more…)

Paul W. Kincade, Ph.D. (AAI President, 2002-03)

With members in 56 countries, the sun never sets on AAI. Our membership continues to grow worldwide, and the last barriers to communication are falling to technology. Here are some personal thoughts about the opportunities and responsibilities that come with these important trends.

Science may be the most successful of all melting pots, where nature is the common language, and standards of excellence apply equally to all. Furthermore, travel and cultural exchanges are some of the most enjoyable "perks" scientists get to experience. While immunology first emerged as a scientific discipline in Europe, many countries have contributed significantly to the advancement of the field. (read more…)


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