The University of Michigan School of Dentistry
The mouth provides us with remarkable sensations.
We bite into, adeptly manipulate, and crunch foods without inflicting self-injury. Our dentition and supporting structures routinely tolerate extreme forces of mastication, yet they also allow us to discern minuscule changes in bite and unanticipated hard particulates in food. We hardly notice these forces in normal chewing function; however, if the teeth are damaged and the dental pulps become inflamed, their sensory input is altered and we begin to experience excruciating pain – the toothache.
In thinking about these phenomena, we also wonder: What makes the tongue and lips profoundly sensitive to touch? How do common components (i.e., sensory neurons) provide us with unique sensations from distinct tissues? What makes our mouth feel dry? Why is tooth pain exquisite? And how do we inherently “know” the position of our teeth, jaws, and tongue when we eat and speak?
The Emrick lab is interested in answering these types of questions (and others) by studying the molecules, cells, and circuitry of the sensory nervous system innervating the mouth, head, and neck. To this end we use a number of state-of-the-art techniques to study trigeminal somatosensory neurons including 1) multiround, multiplex in situ hybridization and machine learning algorithm-guided transcriptional classification, 2) viral and genetic approaches for tracing connectivity and manipulating function using opto-/chemogenetics, and 3) an in vivo imaging platform to monitor responses to oral tissue stimulation at single-cell resolution. Above all, we want to understand how the sensory nervous system encodes oral and craniofacial information, contributes to normal tissue function, and ultimately drives reflexes and perceptions.
Dr. Joshua Emrick is an assistant professor in the Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences & Prosthodontics at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. He was awarded his D.D.S. and Ph.D. in oral and craniofacial biology from the University of California - San Francisco School of Dentistry, completing his dissertation with Dr. David Julius (Nobel Prize, 2021). Prior to joining Michigan, Dr. Emrick conducted his postdoctoral studies as a Dental Clinical Research Fellow at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) with Dr. Nicholas Ryba.
Dr. Emrick is a U-M Biological Sciences Scholar (2021) and has support from a NIDCR Career Transition Award (K22) and a RE-JOIN Consortium Award (UC2).
The Emrick lab is actively recruiting members to join our budding research group on Central Campus.
Importantly, lab members are expected contribute to a culture that embraces curiosity, integrity, excitement, respect, and cooperation. We will do our best to enjoy working hard together.
If you are excited about joining our group, please contact Dr. Joshua Emrick (firstname.lastname@example.org) with an up-to-date CV as well as a cover letter describing your research interest, relevant experience, and career goals. Feel free to forward as appropriate.
Research Lab Technician
B.S. Biochemistry, 2023
Hometown: Ottawa, Illinois
Email: email@example.comInterests: My general interests lie in understanding the mechanisms behind sensory perception. I strive to use methods in computational biology as a toolkit for understanding how neurons process and integrate sensory information. During my free time, I enjoy playing tennis, going on walks, and eating new foods.
Research Lab Technician
B.S. Biochemistry, University of Michigan, 2023
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Interests: I enjoy delving into complex molecular mechanisms through molecular techniques and computational algorithms. Currently, I am studying how tooth-innervating sensory neurons affect behavior in murine models. For leisure, I stay active by playing outside and expressing myself through piano.
Research Lab Technician
B.A. Biology, Brown University, 2021
Hometown: Bloomfield Hills, MI
Interests: As an aspiring dental student currently taking a gap year, I am utilizing this time to delve into the world of research. Prior to this, I gained invaluable experience as a dental assistant in Boston, where I honed my skills and developed a deeper passion for oral healthcare. When I'm not in the lab, you can find me playing hockey, watching a thrilling horror movie, spending quality time with my family, or listening to The Lumineers.
B.S. Neuroscience, University of Michigan
M.S. Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan
Ph.D. Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan, 2022
Hometown: Royal Oak, Michigan
Interests:My research broadly aims to understand how animals sense their external world to produce behavioral outputs. Currently, I am focused on uncovering the neural and molecular mechanisms by which structures within the oral cavity detect and transduce various sensory cues, including touch, temperature, and pain.
Oral Health Sciences, DDS/PhD Student
B.S. Genetics and Developmental Biology, Cornell University, 2020
Hometown: Blauvelt, NY
Interests: I am interested in sensory neuroscience and the interpretation of pain. My current research project is about elucidating the innervation of the temporomandibular joint and understanding how these neurons play a role in chronic pain. In my free time, you can find me cycling (both indoor and outdoor), long walks with my dog, or trying to make new recipes.
Neuroscience PhD Student
B.S. Neuroscience, Bucknell University, 2021
Hometown: Pequannock, NJ
Interests: I am broadly interested in sensory neuroscience and neuroimmunology. My current research is focused on mapping the sensory neurons that innervate the salivary glands and understanding how these neurons may regulate saliva production and composition. Outside of the lab, you can find me hiking with my dog, reading sci-fi/fantasy, playing Zelda, or tap dancing.
B.S. Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience, University of Michigan, 2024
Hometown: Escanaba, MI
Interests: I am broadly interested in molecular neuroscience and how our craniofacial research relates to real-life medical applications. After exploring research, I plan to pursue my interests by attending dental school. Outside of the lab, I enjoy exercising, reading, playing tennis, and 3D printing.
Lab Manager, Research Lab Specialist
B.S. Neuroscience, Michigan State University, 2023
Hometown: Canton, MI
Interests: I’m passionate about connecting people across cultures, which align with my aspirations to earn a PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, where I hope to conduct research and develop programs to aid in bridging gaps in education. When I'm not working, I enjoy channeling my creativity through art, exploring new coffee shops and restaurants, traveling, and reading.
Research Lab Specialist Lead
B.S. Biology, Tunghai University, Taiwan
Ph.D. Life Science, Tunghai University, Taiwan
Hometown: Hsinchu, Taiwan
Interests: I am interested in metabolism and lipid homeostasis in neuroscience. Currently, I am trying to tackle the questions of how the pain interacts with reflex. When I have free time, I like exploring nature and baking chiffon cakes.
B.S. Neuroscience, University of Michigan 2026
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
Interests: My research interests lie in the intersections between neuroscience and biophysics, especially the application of physical principles and techniques to explore the propagation of signals in neurons. Outside of the lab, I enjoy making digital art, exercising, discovering new TV shows, and playing games with friends.
B.S.E. Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan 2025
Hometown: Louisville, KY
Interests: I’m interested in the intersection of tissue engineering and traditional dentistry; I enjoy learning about the computational side of research. I hope to attend dental school in the future to pursue this in practice. Outside of the lab, you’ll find me tinkering with med devices, rollerblading, painting, and reading.
Former Research Lab Specialist, Lab Manager
Former U-M Life Sciences Institute Perrigo Fellow
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