Paula Kavathas graduated with a B.A. in American Institutions, from the University of Wisconsin, writing her thesis on the role of Science in America in the 1960s. She obtained her Ph.D. in Genetics from the Department of Genetics, founded in 1921 as the first Genetics Department in the country. At Wisconsin with Dr. Robert DeMars on genetic analysis of the MHC region. As a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University with Dr. Leonard Herzenberg she developed a novel approach for cloning genes for cell surface proteins using the fluorescence activated cell sorter (FACS).
At Yale she continued her studies on CD8 and recently has focused on the functional relevance of four isoforms of the CD8b protein that exist in humans and great apes but not mice. They are differentially expressed in naive T cells, activated T cells, and memory T cells. Signal transduction by the isoforms is different given that they differ only in their cytoplasmic tail. The clinical relevance of these isoforms for adoptive immunotherapy with T cells is one focus of the lab.