James Windelborn

  • Associate Professor & Director of Neuroscience Program


2021 Washington College Alumni Association Distinguished Teacher of the Year


B.S. in Cell and Structural Biology. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 2000.

Ph.D. in Neuroscience. University of Wisconsin, Madison. 2007.


Dr. Windelborn has studied the cellular and molecular bases of neurologic traumas and neuromuscular diseases. Models used in his research include zebrafish, acute brain slices, and mammalian cell cultures.

As an example of research performed in the Windelborn lab, students explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms of damage caused by cerebral ischemia, a condition commonly caused by stroke. Stroke afflicts almost 800,000 Americans each year. Of those, approximately 15% will die from the acute symptoms of the incident. The remaining 85% of stroke victims will survive, but many will be left with deficiencies and disabilities that impact quality of life and impose high economic costs on society. Unfortunately, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying cerebral ischemic damage has not yet yielded broadly effective treatments. A better understanding of these mechanisms will increase potential therapeutic targets and help to reduce the impact stroke has on the lives of its victims and their caretakers.

One relatively unexplored cause of neuronal damage is the lysosome. This cellular organelle is vital for recycling of cellular components and for destruction of pathogens. However, recent evidence has shown that lysosomes become permeabilized following ischemia, allowing normally sequestered catabolic enzymes to escape into the cytoplasm. This can lead to widespread destruction of vital structural and enzymatic cellular components. My laboratory uses a variety of biochemical, cellular and molecular techniques to explore the steps leading to lysosomal membrane permeabilization as well as the contribution of the lysosome to neuronal damage caused by ischemia. 
Our more recent work has focused on the effects of severe hypoxia on locomotion and memory in a zebrafish model. One publication from the lab describes a reproducible and economical model for inducing hypoxia in aquatic species. This model is being utilized to examine the effects of learning and memory in zebrafish using assays such as the t-maze and novel object recognition.

For more detailed information on Dr. Windelborn’s research background, please see his published papers.


My goals in the classroom and laboratory include the creation of an environment that promotes a growth mindset for all involved. Students are encouraged to ask questions and to extend course topics to other themes in their lives. Collaboration is emphasized whenever possible, including teamwork during lecture and on assessments. Some of the course I teach include:

General Biology I (BIO 111)

General Biology II (BIO 112)

Madmen & History Making (FYS 101)

Neurobiology (BIO 311)

Pathophysiology (BIO 317)

Cell Signaling (BIO 369)

Integrative Human Physiology (BIO 424)

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