About me

Hello world! My name is Kellen Cavagnero. I am currently a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Diego. I earned a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at UC San Diego in 2024 and a B.S. in pharmacology at UC Santa Barbara in 2014. As a graduate student, I was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and an ARCS Scholar. Much of my time is spent experimenting in the lab, analyzing data, writing papers and grants, and having discussions with other scientists and physicians. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with friends and family and outdoor activities like surfing, hiking, and scuba diving.


The overarching goal of my research is to understand how the immune cells in our barrier tissues—our skin, gut, and lungs—protect us from infection but also promote inflammatory disease. I have led high-impact peer-reviewed studies in multiple fields including inflammatory airway disease, gut microbiome, and skin infection and inflammatory disease. My work has led to the identification of several novel therapeutic targets, and I have given invited talks at numerous national and international scientific meetings.

Inflammatory airway disease

In the interim between my undergraduate and graduate education, I worked as a research associate in the lab of Dr. Taylor Doherty, M.D. at UC San Diego. There, I conducted independent research investigating the mechanisms underlying allergic airway inflammation using a combination of mouse models, clinical samples, and high parameter flow cytometry. During the five years I spent in the Doherty lab, I made several important contributions to the lung immunology field including the identification of unconventional group 2 innate lymphoid cells (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2019).

Gut Microbiome

As a first-year graduate student, I completed a research rotation in the laboratory of Dr. Rob Knight, Ph.D.. There, I led an investigation into the effect of sample storage on fecal microbiome composition using 16S rDNA and shotgun metagenomic sequencing (mSystems 2021).

Skin Infection and Inflammatory Disease

In 2020, I joined the laboratory of physician scientist and National Academy of Medicine member Dr. Richard Gallo, M.D. Ph.D. to complete my Ph.D. thesis. The aim of my dissertation was to increase the understanding of the complex cellular communication network underlying skin immunity, with a focus on the role of fibroblasts. Dermal fibroblasts are appreciated for supporting tissue architecture and scar formation but have historically been ignored in terms of immunology. Overall, my dissertation unveiled the pivotal role of dermal immune acting fibroblasts (IAFs) in orchestrating skin immunity. Using a combination of bioinformatics, in vitro systems, murine models, and clinical samples, this work provided unprecedented insight into the intricate cellular communication network underlying skin inflammation and host defense. My findings, published in part in the Journal of Experimental Medicine in 2024, contributed significantly to our understanding of immunology and laid the groundwork for the development of novel treatments for infectious and inflammatory diseases.


The Inflammatory Content Podcast

Established in 2019, Inflammatory Content is a totally free, no-ad podcast about immunology for scientists and non-scientists alike. I founded Inflammatory Content to make science and the stories of the people behind the science accessible to everyone. In each episode, I review the latest high-impact original articles and discuss science, mentorship, life, and more with world-class biomedical scientists. The show has been featured in Nature and has received sponsorship from the National Institutes of Health.