About this Research Topic
The explosion of basic and applied immunology in the first decades of the 21st century has brought forth new opportunities and challenges for immunology education at all academic levels, from professional to undergraduate, medical, graduate and post-graduate instruction. Moreover, developing methods and techniques for educating general audiences on the importance and benefits of immunology will be critical for increasing public awareness and support.
One major immediate challenge consists in accommodating, within the confines of traditional immunology curricula, a body of knowledge that continues to grow exponentially in both size and complexity. Furthermore, the practical toolbox of immunological research has vastly expanded, and even in the present environment of highly interdisciplinary and collaborative science, future immunologists will likely need to be at least conversant in, for instance, computational, structural and system biology, nanotechnology and tissue engineering. At the same time, our perspective of the immune system has progressively developed from primarily a host defense mechanism to a fundamental homeostatic system with organism-wide physiological and clinical significance, and with potentially transformative biotechnological and therapeutic applications. As a consequence, in addition to stand-alone courses, immunology is increasingly integrated into other courses, or distributed longitudinally, throughout a multi-year curriculum. This necessitates inter-disciplinary approaches to reach an expanding range of disciplines, as diverse as neurobiology, cancer biology/oncology, infectious diseases, pharmacology, orthopedics and bioengineering. Creative approaches and pedagogical flexibility will be needed to avoid the pitfall of “one-size-fits-all” instruction, and to tailor level- and discipline-appropriate content to different types of students using multiple teaching formats.
Finally, like most other disciplines, immunology education is also under strong pressure to introduce new didactic strategies that are relevant and meaningful to a generation of students who are “digital natives”, comfortable with and expect on-demand and multi-modal learning, diversified sources, and active engagement. Thankfully, the dynamic and interactive behavior of immune system cells, now visualized with striking immediacy by in vivo imaging, has the ability to capture and hold the interest of even the most jaded learner.
The need for an increasingly immunology-knowledgeable workforce – not just academic and industry scientists, but also clinical and research lab technicians, biomedical engineers, and physicians in a growing array of specialties - will also expand job opportunities for immunologists as educators, and for content creators dedicated to generating new didactic tools in this field.
This Research Topic aims to explore these issues by presenting a collection of articles focusing on immunology education, curricular innovation, new pedagogical strategies and teaching tools for the current and future generations of immunologists and their students.
We acknowledge the initiation and support of this Research Topic by the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS).