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.

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 (jjemrick@umich.edu) 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.

Akash Gandhi
Akash Gandhi

Research Lab Technician

B.S. Biochemistry, 2023
Hometown: Ottawa, Illinois

Email: argandhi@umich.edu

Interests: 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.

Briam Const
Brian Constantinescu

Research Lab Technician

B.S. Biochemistry, University of Michigan, 2023

Email: conbri@umich.edu

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.

Akash Gandhi
Kaitijane Blumberg

Research Lab Technician

B.A. Biology, Brown University, 2021

Email: kblumber@umich.edu

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.

Liz Ronan

Postdoctoral Fellow

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

Email: lizronan@umich.edu

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.  

Sienna Perry

Oral Health Sciences, DDS/PhD Student

B.S. Genetics and Developmental Biology, Cornell University, 2020

Email: skperry@umich.edu

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.

Deanna Cannizzaro
Deanna Cannizzaro

Neuroscience PhD Student

B.S. Neuroscience, Bucknell University, 2021

Email: cdeanna@umich.edu

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.

Deanna Cannizzaro
Isaac Berthaume

Undergraduate Student

B.S. Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience, University of Michigan, 2024

Email: itb@umich.edu

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.

Deanna Cannizzaro
Leen Dakhilalla

Lab Manager, Research Lab Specialist

B.S. Neuroscience, Michigan State University, 2023

Email: leend@umich.edu

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.

Deanna Cannizzaro
Ling-Yu Liu

Research Lab Specialist Lead

B.S. Biology, Tunghai University, Taiwan
Ph.D. Life Science, Tunghai University, Taiwan

Email: liuly@umich.edu

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.

Deanna Cannizzaro
Seoyoon Chang

B.S. Neuroscience, University of Michigan 2026

Email: seoyoonc@umich.edu

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.

Deanna Cannizzaro
Aditi Jha

B.S.E. Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan 2025

Email: aditijha@umich.edu

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.


Mak Guenther
Former Research Lab Specialist, Lab Manager

Simon Lafleur
Former U-M Life Sciences Institute Perrigo Fellow


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

Email: jjemrick@umich.edu
Telephone: (734) 763-1080
Fax: (734) 763-3453
Twitter: @jjemrick