Univ. of Toronto and Sunnybrook Res. Inst., Canada
Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker, Ph.D., University of Toronto and Sunnybrook Research Institute, Canada, is being honored with the 2020 AAI Distinguished Service Award for the invaluable service he provided to AAI during his tenure as director of the AAI Introductory Course in Immunology from 2014 to 2019.
Dr. Zúñiga-Pflücker provided vital leadership and guidance in directing the AAI Introductory Course. He became director of the course as it moved to California following 11 years at the University of Pennsylvania. He ensured that the course continued to provide a comprehensive introduction to the basic principles of immunology for scientists with a general biology background. In collaboration with the AAI education staff, Zúñiga-Pflücker guided curriculum design and the selection of course faculty. He engaged prominent scientists from the West Coast and beyond to serve as lecturers.
Zúñiga-Pflücker’s committed leadership and experience ensured the success of the course. One attendee from the 2019 Introductory Course said that it “did an excellent job of bringing together a group of speakers with diverse research backgrounds to speak on a broad range of immunology topics. The types of topics covered were excellent and brought to light many components of immunology.”
Zúñiga-Pflücker is a creative teacher and passionate scientist. His contagious enthusiasm for immunology and camaraderie with other faculty created an ideal classroom environment conducive to learning complex immunology concepts. These qualities were evident to course attendees and fellow instructors. Each year Zúñiga-Pflücker described the ancient Greek and Roman origins and key concepts of immunology in his “Introduction to the Immune System” lecture, which also featured humorous scenes from Monty Python films.
“He’s a tough act to follow,” remarked Dr. Helen S. Goodridge, associate professor, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, who worked alongside Zúñiga-Pflücker as co-director of the 2019 course and assumed the role of director in 2020. “His passion for research and the breadth of his immunology knowledge have inspired and educated course participants from diverse fields.”
Students expressed enthusiasm for his lectures, which were both dynamic and engaging. Referring to his lecture on MHC restriction and thymic selection, one attendee said that “Zúñiga- Pflücker’s detailed animations of T cell development and videos on MHC antigen presentation were memorable and helped bring together key points.”
Beyond his extensive contributions as AAI Introductory Course director and instructor, Zúñiga-Pflücker has a long history of service to AAI. An AAI member since 1996, he previously served as an associate editor and section editor for The Journal of Immunology; a member of the Publications, Nominating, and Awards committees; and a major symposium speaker at the AAI annual meeting.
Zúñiga-Pflücker completed his Ph.D. research in genetics and immunology at George Washington University and a postdoctoral fellowship at NIAID with Dr. Michael J. Lenardo. In 1994 he joined the faculty of the University of Toronto as an assistant professor. He ascended the faculty ranks to professor and is currently the chair of the Department of Immunology; senior scientist and director of the Centre for Cytometry and Scanning Microscopy, Sunnybrook Research Institute; and affiliate scientist, Campbell Family Research Institute, Ontario Cancer Institute.
Zúñiga-Pflücker is well recognized for his scientific contributions to the field. He was awarded the Canadian Society for Immunology Investigator Award, Premier’s Research Excellence Award, and Canadian Institutes of Health Research New Investigator Award, among others. He is a past president and Council member of the Canadian Society for Immunology and he is a popular invited speaker in the United States and abroad.