Combined DVM/PhD Degree Program

Horse in Fog


Derek Cavatorta, Graduate

Derek CavatortaDerek Cavatorta
Field of Immunology & Infectious Disease
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Julia Bevailaqua Felippe

Current Position: SRH Veterinary Services as a pracicing veterinarian for large animals

Brief Biography

Derek Cavatorta was one of three students admitted to the Combined DVM/PhD degree program in the fall of 2004. During his 8-year graduate program, Derek simultaneously completed veterinary school and earned a PhD in equine immunology. His dissertation research contributed to the understanding of how horses respond to vaccination, and he hopes this knowledge will enhance his ability to provide the best possible medicine to his patients.

A lifelong endurance athlete, he has completed several marathons and spends much of his free time running and biking on the back roads around Essex county.

Derek is currently a practicing veterinarian at SRH Veterinary Services in Ipswich, Massachusetts.


PhD, Immunology, Cornell University, 2012
DVM, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, 2010
BS, Animal Science, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2004.

Research Interests

Derek was working at characterizing monocyte-derived dendritic cells of the horse using flow cytometric, biochemical, and functional analyses. He had been successful at distinguishing these dendritic cells from macrophages by microscopy, flow cytometry, and gene expression analysis. He also prepared a stock of UV-inactivated E. coli to use as a maturation stimulus for these cells. Derek had shown that the dendritic cells respond to stimulation with E. coli by measuring alterations in cell surface expression by flow cytometry and changes in cytokine expression by quantitative, reverse-transcription PCR and ELISA. He began some initial experiments to measure the capacity of these cells to stimulate a proliferative response in allogeneic T cells. After characterizing these cells further,he hoped to use them as a model to study vaccine responses in horses. In addition, he has embalmed a horse cadaver and conducted a detailed dissection of the equine lymphatic system. This dissection has helped prepare him for future experiments in which he will attempt to identify the lymph nodes draining common vaccine sites in the horse. Derek hopes to use this information to learn how equine dendritic cells can be used to augment vaccine responses.

Publications & Presentations

Cavatorta DJ, Erb HN, Felippe MJ. Activation-induced FoxP3 expression regulates cytokine production in conventional T cells stimulated with autologous dendriftic cells. Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2012 Oct; 19(10):1583-92.Epub 2012 Aug 1. PMID: 2285393

Cavatorta DJ, Erb HN, Flaminio MJ. Ex vivo generation of mature equine monocyte-derived dendritic cells. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2009 Oct 15; 131 (3-4):259-67. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2009.04.019.Epub 2009 May 4. PMID: 19477020

Cavatorta D, Starczak V, Prada K, Moore M. 2005. J. Cetacean Res. Manage. 7(1):39-42.

Aug 2005-Cornell University Leadership Program, oral presentation: "Experimental Infection of a Foal with Equine Herpesvirus 5"

Dec 2008-Cornell University Department of Microbiology and Immunology, WIP Seminar, oral presentation: "Investigations Into The Equine Primary Immune Response."

2008-Cavatorta, DJ, Erb, HN, Flaminio, MJ. "Ex Vivo Generation of Mature Equine Monocyte-Derived Dendritic Cells." (In prep).