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Professor Usha Goswami FBA

Usha Goswami is Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at the Department of Psychology, and is a Fellow of St John's College. Usha returned to Cambridge in 2003, having previously left the department in 1997 to become Professor of Cognitive Developmental Psychology at the Institute of Child Health, University College London. Prior to first arriving in Cambridge in 1990, she held academic posts at the University of Oxford, and the University of Illinois. Usha completed her undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, and continued there for her PhD, the topic of which was children's use of analogy in reading and spelling. Usha completed a PGCE in Primary Education at the University of London Institute of Education.

Usha is the Director of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education, the main research goal of which is to determine the basic parameters of brain development in the cognitive skills that are vital for education. The Centre employs the techniques of EEG and fNIRS to investigate the brain. Usha's research has focussed on the relations between phonology and reading, with special reference to rhyme and analogy in reading acquisition, and rhyme and rhythm processing in dyslexic and deaf children's reading.

Usha's outstanding contribution to research in educational neuroscience has been recognised through the granting of a number of awards and fellowships, which include the following:

•    British Psychology Society Spearman Medal (awarded for early career research excellence)
•    The Norman Geschwind-Rodin Prize (a Swedish award for research excellence in the field of dyslexia)
•    National Academy of Education Fellowship (USA)
•    Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellowship (Germany)
•    Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship
•    Fellow of the British Academy

Usha has had over one-hundred articles published across a wide range of journals, including Nature, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and Cortex. Usha is the editor of The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development, published by Wiley-Blackwell (2011), and she has written a number of monographs, the most recent of which is Child Psychology: A Very Short Introduction, published by Oxford University Press (2014). She has also contributed chapters to many edited volumes. (For a full list of Usha's publications, visit the CNE Publications page.)

Usha's research has been very influential. In celebrating its 40th anniversary, the British Educational Research Association named one of Usha's studies in its list of top forty landmark studies in educational research (The 40@40 list).

Usha is a frequent guest on television and radio programmes, and she has presented many public lectures, for example, she appeared at the Science Festival in March 2018. Through these activities she has successfully promoted a wider appreciation of her research and its implications for understanding and educating children.

Usha has combined her highly successful career with raising a daughter.

Usha says: "I couldn’t decide between reading Psychology or English Literature at University. My mother persuaded me that psychology would be more likely to lead to a permanent job, so in a sense I owe my career to my mother! 

I also owe a lot to Peter Bryant, who admitted me to read psychology at Oxford even though I came from a comprehensive school and could not be prepared for the entrance exam. I wrote to a number of colleges as a post-A level applicant, and he was the only person who offered me an interview. He later proved an inspirational D. Phil. supervisor.

Finally, my post-doctoral advisor at the University of Illinois, Ann Brown, was a wonderful mentor. She was a role model for how to be a senior female academic, my first such encounter after a male-dominated faculty experience at Oxford. And more recently, Karalyn Patterson here in Cambridge has been my role model for giving good talks – I have tried to copy her beautiful clarity and her grace under fire.

On the personal front, I have found it difficult to combine being a single parent with an academic career. An enormous amount of energy is required and travelling is always a stretch. My College (St John’s) has been an important source of support, particularly in the first years after my divorce, when I was caring for both a young child and an aging father. The community of St John’s is fantastic, and both staff and Fellows have helped me in difficult times. St John’s is like a second family, and an important testament to the Oxbridge model of having both department and College."

Links relating to Professor Usha Goswami

Usha Goswami in the University's Research News

Usha's Department Profile

Centre for Neuroscience in Education


BBC World Service, The Why Factor (Poetry)

Naked Scientists, Brainy Babies interview

BBC Radio 4, The Material World

BBC Radio 4, Reading Between the Lines

BBC Radio 4, The Class Ceiling

BBC Radio 4, In Our Time (The Infant Brain)


BBC 4 Growing Children (Dyslexia) (Visit this link to see a clip of the programme containing Professor Goswami's interview.)