If you keep up on current events, you may be led to believe that the world is a scary, dirty place, with deadly bugs lurking in every corner waiting to get their flagella on you. You slather yourself with anti-bacterial hand sanitizer and live by Neosporin’s motto “Every cut, every time”. While there are billions (probably trillions) of bacteria and viruses on, in, or around you, the reality is, we’re NOT sick all the time. Why is this? The short answer is: you have a functioning immune system!

Immunity is defined as “the balanced state of multicellular organisms having adequate biological defenses to fight infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion, while having adequate tolerance to avoid allergy, and autoimmune diseases.” In simpler terms, it is the ability to distinguish “self” from “non-self” and mount an appropriate response to avoid infection. This course is designed to give you a basic overview of the immune system. By the end of this course, you should have a better understanding of how the immune system works, and be able to answer:

-       Why do we get sick?

-       How do we get better once we’re sick?

-       Why aren’t we sick all the time?

My goal as an instructor is to have you leave my course with a better understanding of how the immune system works and hopefully save you some money from all that hand sanitizer.

We consider naive the early Darwinian view of "Nature red in tooth and claw." Now we see ourselves as products of cellular interaction. The eukaryotic cell is built up from other cells; it is a community of interacting microbes.

                                                                               Lynn Margulis 1987

If I could do it all over again, and relive my vision in the
twenty-first century, I would be a microbial ecologist. Ten billion bacteria live in a gram of ordinary soil, a mere pinch held between thumb and forefinger. They represent thousands of species, almost none of which are known to science. Into that world. I would go with the aid of modern microscopy and molecular analysis. I would cut my way through clonal forests sprawled across grains of sand, travel in an imagined submarine through drops of water proportionately the size of lakes, and track predators and prey in order to discover new life ways and alien food webs

EO Wilson - Naturalist - 2006