Christina Graves, PhD

Research Assistant Professor


PhD, Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences, Department of Oral Biology, College of Medicine, University of Florida, 2016 BS, Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2011 Research Interests mucosal biology, immunology/inflammation, neuroimmunity, host-pathogen interactions, epithelial cell biology, early life stress, growth and development, zebrafish

Research Summary

Fundamentally, our research is focused on how the nervous and immune systems are developmentally educated by infectious and non-infectious stressors across the “gum-to-gut” axis. One current major focus of the lab is to elucidate how early life stress impacts the developing gut and dentition using zebrafish as an ideal — and translational — model organism. We utilize a combination of advanced imaging, next-generation sequencing, and genetic approaches to achieve a greater understanding of how early life events dictate health outcomes across the lifespan and generations. In addition to these primary research interests, we maintain active collaborations with other groups within the Adams School of Dentistry and across campus.


Graves has a broad, interdisciplinary research background across models (human, mouse, zebrafish) in immunology, mucosal biology, and neuroimmunology with specific expertise in gut biology, advanced imaging, and novel methods development. She began her research career with an interest in understanding human inflammatory diseases from an evolutionary perspective using synthetic biological tools (Georgia Tech). Her graduate work at the University of Florida, which was supported by a NIH NIDDK F31, led to the development of a novel intestinal epithelial cell culture methods for human and mouse tissue and further described the dysfunctional innate immune sensing and responsiveness of epithelial cells in the context of human type 1 diabetes. As a postdoctoral fellow, she described protective roles for gut macrophages in the context of infectious stress (mouse models, Rockefeller) and later characterized a bona fide muscularis macrophage population associated with enteric neurons in zebrafish (UNC-CH). She is a strong advocate of transdisciplinary research and team-based science and has enjoyed many productive collaborations with dentist-scientists, neuroscientists, and virologists over the years. Graves’ training and research has been supported by the NIH, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, and NC TraCS, among others. In addition to her primary research activities, Graves is a passionate mentor and educator and is the recipient of the Graduate Student Mentoring Award (UF).

Available to Mentor

Undergraduate/college student, graduate student, undergraduate DDS or DH student, postdoc