As Acting Chair of the Department of Immunology for this academic term, I am pleased to bring you some highlights of this issue of IMMpress. The students have once again hit on the topic of the moment as we all struggle to realign work/life balance in this almost post-pandemic era (fingers crossed on the “post” part of this sentence). This issue contains very thoughtful articles on how workers can become exploited in the new gig economy, how unions can play a role in upholding workers’ rights (sometimes good, sometimes not as good), and the toll this brave new work world takes on the most vulnerable in our society.

In this issue we also heard about the pros and cons of an industrial career. As someone who has done both, this article resonated with me. The way industry works now is vastly different than when I was at Biogen from 2000-2003. But there are some things that remain the same – the ability to quickly bring a discovery to the clinic is still an exhilarating process, while the constraints on what you can work on at a given moment can be frustrating. The good news is that there is no right or wrong when choosing industry vs academia, and there are growing examples of scientists (like myself and our newest Departmental member Dr. Matt Buechler) who have toggled between both worlds.

We all (hopefully) share a passion for science, and in this we are extremely lucky to be working at what we love. In Immunology there are unavoidable long days at the bench or in front of a computer. This can fuel our passion, but can also suck us dry if we don’t get opportunities to turn off and recharge. As such, burnout is something we need to address on our own terms as well as collectively. This issue takes a good hard look at how we work now and offers some cautionary tales as to what “work gone wrong” can look like.

If we have learned anything from this 2-year pandemic at the tail of which we now have war, it is to look after our mental and physical health, and care for those who are most vulnerable. Not only will that make us better citizens, but arguably also better Immunologists. Bravo to all who played a role in bringing this issue to life, especially the editors Louis and Philip.

And take care out there!

Jen Gommerman, PhD

Canada Research Chair in Tissue Specific Immunity

Professor and Acting Chair, Department of Immunology

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