UMMS scientist elected president of American Association of Immunologists

By Ellie Castano

UMass Medical School Communications

October 12, 2011

Leslie J. Berg, PhD

Leslie J. Berg, PhD, professor of pathology, has been elected the 95th president of the American Association of Immunologists for a one-year term that began July 1. AAI is the largest professional association for immunologists worldwide, with more than 7,000 members in 57 countries. 

AAI publishes the Journal of Immunology, the premier peer-reviewed journal in the field. In addition to publishing the journal and sponsoring the largest annual immunology meeting in the world, the association helps raise visibility of immunology research among groups and individuals with broad public influence; keeps members of the immunology community informed of legislative issues that impact the field; educates members of charitable organizations and interest groups about the role of the immune system; and trains young immunologists about the mechanisms and strategies for promoting immunology and biomedical research on Capitol Hill.

Dr. Berg takes over stewardship of this respected scientific association at a particularly difficult time in the history of public funding for biomedical research. Acknowledging that in her President’s Letter, which is posted on the AAI website, Berg urges her fellow scientists to be advocates for the history and promise of biomedical research, saying, “As scientists, we have been remarkably remiss in such activities, believing that the significance of our work is patently self-evident, and, therefore, requires little in the way of explanation. Unfortunately, this assumption may have contributed to our recent funding decline, especially in light of the organized and effective lobbying efforts of interest groups competing for the same small pot of federal dollars.”

Berg’s research focuses on understanding the signal transduction pathways—the succession of reactions inside the cell as it changes one kind of stimulus, or signal, into another—important for T-cell development and activation, and the generation of protective immunity to infections.

A member of AAI since 1994, Berg was elected to the AAI Council in 2006 and was the 2001 recipient of the AAI-Pharmingen Investigator Award, an early-career investigator award. She also received the AAI Distinguished Service Award in 2006 for her service as chair of the AAI Program Committee.