Staff Collaborate Conference Room

Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams, MD

Jordan Williams, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering; Neurosurgery


  • Zablocki VA Medical Center
  • Neuroscience Research Labs, D-208
    5000 W. National Ave.
    Milwaukee, WI 53295


Postdoctoral Scholar, 2013-2019, Systems Neuroscience Institute, University of Pittsburgh
MD, 2013, Washington University in St. Louis
PhD, 2013, Biomedical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis
BS, 2005, Electrical Engineering, South Dakota State University
BS, 2005, Engineering Physics, South Dakota State University


Jordan J. Williams, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Joint Biomedical Engineering Department between Marquette University and the Medical College of Wisconsin. He also holds a joint appointment within the Department of Neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He earned undergraduate bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Engineering Physics from South Dakota State University in 2005. In 2013, he earned his MD and PhD degrees from Washington University in St. Louis within the Medical Scientist Training Program. While in St. Louis, he completed his doctoral thesis studies using electrocorticography (ECoG) signals from the surface of the brain to control brain-machine interface (BMI) devices intended to restore motor control and independence to paralyzed patients while also studying neural plasticity associated with learning to use such a device.

Following his medical and doctoral studies, Dr. Williams completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh under the tutelage of Dr. Andrew Schwartz. During this time, he initially studied the neural correlates of learning using intracortical BMIs as well as how to optimize training for new subjects naïve to BMI control. He later transitioned to advancing peripheral nerve optogenetic techniques to stimulate paralyzed muscle function. These techniques involve using virus injections to label nerves with light sensitive ion channels such that targeted muscles can be activated by exposing their nerves to specific colors of light. While optogenetic stimulation of muscle activity has many benefits over more traditional forms of electrical muscle stimulation, this approach faces a number of unique challenges including delivery and expression of desired gene products to target nerves, immune responses to light-sensitive ion channels that are not native to the body, and chronic means of light delivery to targeted nerves. These hurdles are critical issues that must be addressed before optogenetic stimulation technology may translated to clinical application for conditions such as spinal cord injury.

Dr. Williams joined the Biomedical Engineering and Neurosurgery Departments in August of 2019. His lab continues to develop neuroprosthetic devices, BMI technologies, and optogenetic therapies aimed at restoring motor function to spinal cord injury patients and other motor disorders. Collaborations with other members of the VA Neuroscience Labs also include using electrophysiology and optogenetic methods to study secondary injury phenomena that occur during the acute stages of spinal cord injury.

Honors and Awards

2019 – Ripple Neuro Promising Young Investigator Award
2015 - National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship Award
2011 – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke NRSA Predoctoral Fellowship Award
2008 – National Science Foundation IGERT Program Fellowship
2004 – Barry M. Goldwater National Scholarship

Research Interests

  • Peripheral optogenetics for motor stimulation
  • Brain-machine Interfaces and neural prosthetics
  • Viral gene therapy for spinal cord injury and disease
  • Neural correlates of motor learning and plasticity after injury