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Letter: A plea to reinstate Dr. Rick Bungiro

To The Editor:

I recently heard about the resignation of Dr. Rick Bungiro from the Division of Biology and Medicine and his subsequent request for reinstatement. I took two classes with Dr. Bungiro in the Fall of 2011 and Spring of 2012, BIOL0530 (Principles of Immunology) and BIOL1550 (Biology of Emerging Microbial Diseases), and they were two of the best taught classes in my four years at Brown. Dr. Bungiro is a phenomenal lecturer, and many of the lessons he taught me about immunology are still with me eight years later — and have helped me separate truth from fiction in the midst of this pandemic. 

I signed up for his classes in the first place based on word of mouth that he was a fantastic teacher. He is. He did a great job making complicated material easy to understand. He was a master of metaphor, using baseball and science fiction references to help draw parallels and explain concepts in easily understandable language. When I was in Emerging Microbial Diseases, he made graphic and grotesque material engaging, so I was motivated to go to class even though I knew I would see images of people suffering from parasites right before lunch. 

His passion to go above and beyond was unparalleled. On a personal level, I loved that every semester he created a parody of a rock hit with immunology-based lyrics, and would perform it in front of the class to reinforce key concepts. He also encouraged students to personally engage with the source material — for instance, if someone went to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and took a selfie with their immunology textbook and the taxidermied body of Balto (a dog who helped deliver diphtheria antitoxin to children in Nome, Alaska in 1925), he'd put their picture in his next year's lecture notes. I did this and was tickled to see people sending me pictures of the lecture notes the following year. As a prize for scoring well on one of his tests, he gave me a plastic sword with the inscription of Sauron's ring from Lord of the Rings changed to be about antibodies. "One B cell to rule them all, one Ag to find them. One Ig to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them." His nerdiness is delightful and the positive memories I have of his courses helped reinforce the content and made his lessons stick that much more.

People of his passion and talent are rare and hard to come by. As someone who considers Dr. Rick Bungiro to have been a highlight of my undergraduate educational experience, I urge the administration to reinstate him. Brown is a better place with him. 

—  David B. Litt ’12


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