backup Emrick Lab

Emrick Lab

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.

Trigeminal ganglion imaging: Oral stimulation evokes response of sensory neurons


joshua Emrick

Joshua J. Emrick, DDS, PhD
Assistant Professor

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). 


View the listing of publications on Scopus.


The Emrick lab is actively recruiting members to join our budding research group on Central Campus.

We will have open positions at the level of technician and postdoctoral fellow. These opportunities would be well-suited for recent college graduates interested in an immersive research experience and/or soon-to-be PhDs with degrees in neuroscience or biomedical sciences.

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 ( 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.

Mak Guenther

Mak Guenther, BS
Lab Manager

Brian Constantinescu

Brian Constantinescu
Undergraduate Student

Akash Gandhi

Akash Gandhi
Undergraduate Student

Elizabeth Ronan, PhD

Elizabeth Ronan, Phd
Postdoctoral Fellow

Sienna Perry

Sienna Perry
Oral Health Sciences DDS/PhD Graduate Student

Deanna Cannizzaro

Deanna Cannizzaro
Neuroscience Graduate Student (NGP)


New RE-JOIN Consortium Awards Seek to Understand Pain Signals in Joints to Reduce Pain, Limit Deterioration, and Restore Healthy Joints

October 27, 2022 | NIH News

Understanding and treating joint pain is important to improving long-term health—and a fundamental part of the NIAMS mission. With that imperative in mind, I’m delighted that NIAMS is supporting a new Consortium that may lead us closer to ultimately being able to restore joint health.

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Faculty member Joshua Emrick part of team receiving major NIH grant for pain management research

Nov 2, 2022 | U-M Dent News

A University of Michigan School of Dentistry faculty member is among researchers joining an important National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative focused on improving prevention and treatment strategies for opioid addiction, and enhancing pain management.

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David Julius Wins Nobel Prize for Work on Pain Sensation

Oct 4, 2021 | UCSF News

David Julius, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology and Medicine at UC San Francisco, has won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

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Scorpion toxin that targets 'wasabi receptor' may help solve mystery of chronic pain

Sept 13, 2019 | Dentistry Today

Researchers at UC San Francisco and the University of Queensland have discovered a scorpion toxin that targets the "wasabi receptor," a chemical-sensing protein found in nerve cells that's responsible for the sinus-jolting sting of wasabi and the flood of tears associated with chopping onions.

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June 10, 2021 | AADOCR

Joshua Emrick is a scientist and dentist with an interest in oral somatosensation, particularly pain.

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The Biological Sciences Scholars Program (BSSP) provides start-up funds to recruit outstanding scientists in key areas of life sciences investigation. The goal of the program is to develop a new generation of leaders in bioscience research at the University of Michigan.

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Emrick Lab
University of Michigan School of Dentistry
1011 N University Ave,
Room 6223
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Telephone: (734) 763-1080
Fax: (734) 763-3453
Twitter: @jjemrick