Emily Liman, Ph.D.

Laboratory of Sensory Neurobiology, USC

Work in the Liman laboratory is focused on understanding how sensory information is detected and transduced, using a combination of electrophysiology, molecular biology, genetics and genomics. Professor Liman trained with Dr. Linda Buck, in whose lab she cloned and characterized sensory transduction components of the main olfactory and vomeronasal systems (see Liman and Buck, 1992 for an example).  As a research assisitant professor at Harvard she identified an ion channel essential for pheromone detection in vertebrates (TRPC2; see Liman, Corey and Dulac, 1999 for an example).  Interestingly, this protein is not found in humans (it is encoded by a pseudogene), indicating that humans have lost much of their ability to respond to pheromones. Work in the Liman lab showed that the functional protein was lost in human evolution at the same time that humans developed trichromatic vision, suggesting that vision has replaced pheromone detection in human reproductive biology (Liman and Innan, 2003)

Ongoing work in the Liman lab is focused on mechanisms of taste signaling, mechanisms of pain signaling, and the identification of ion channels that contribute to these processes. In recent work, the Liman lab showed that an ion channel responsible for the detection of spicy mustards, TRPA1, is also activated by carbon dioxide (Wang et al, 2010). This may explain some of the pungency we feel when we drink carbonated beverages. In a separate study, the Liman lab examined the mechanism of taste transduction using genetically modified mice in which subsets of taste cells are fluorescently labeled. Using patch clamp electrophysiology and uv-uncaging of protons we showed that sour taste is mediated by an apically located proton channel (Chang et al, 2010). Future experiments in the lab are aimed at identifying the molecular nature of this proton channel. The lab uses methods of molecular biology, including generation of transgenic animals, combined with patch clamp electrophysiology and calcium imaging.

Emily Liman, Ph.D. is an assoicate professor of Biological Sciences, in the Section of Neurobiology at the University of Southern California.























Responses of taste cells to sour taste. PKD2L1-YFP are sour taste cells. TRPM5-GFP are sweet/umami/bitter cells (from Chang et al, 2010).



  • Undergraduate interested in working in the lab should have a GPA >3.5
  • Background in molecular biology is desirable
  • An interest in moleclar biology and cell biology and a passion for science is required!
  • Please submit an application through our online system 

Undergraduates apply here:

Graduate Student RAships

  • NIH funded RAships are available for graduate study at USC. 
  • Students interested in learning electrophysiology or molecular biology are encouraged to apply to the lab.
  • Please contact Dr. Liman at Liman@USC.edu to inquire about research opportunities

Positions Available in the Liman Lab

Postdoctoral Positions Available

Liman lab news:

Aug 2011: Graduate student Rui Chang starts postdoc at Harvard

Aug 2011: Graduate student Yuanyuan Wang starts position at Genentach

June 2011: Graduate student Wenlei Ye wins prize for best presentation at the Neurobiology retreat

May 2011: Graduate students Rui Chang wins prize for the best Ph.D. thesis in the biological sciences.

The liman lab in the news!





Princeton Alumni Weekly

Boston Phoenix



USC Links


Emily Liman's Neuroscience web page

Emily Liman's PIBBS web page

Emily Liman's college web page

research in the liman lab is supported by the NIH