Heather van der Lely is an Affiliated Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. She conducts research into language, its acquisition and impairment in children and adults and the psychology of language. She is well known as the discoverer of certain children with Grammatical-Specific Language Impairment (G-SLI).
She has held teaching and research positions at Birkbeck, University of London, and was founding Chair of the Centre for Developmental Language Disorders and Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London. Her research has been supported by distinguished career fellowships from the British Academy, The Wellcome Trust, and the Leverhulme Trust, and recognised by a Fellowship of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (2010). She was Professor Invité at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris (2010-11) and currently holds Visiting Professorships at the Psychological Sciences Research Institute, Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium) and the Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachtwissenschaft, Berlin (Germany). She is chair of the International Committee for Psychology and Education of the Danish Research Council and a member of the European Research Council grants committee for the Human Mind and its Complexity.
Her pioneering research employs a cross-disciplinary theoretical approach, combining linguistics, psychology and cognitive neuroscience. It is enriched by collaborations in genetics to understand the neurobiology of language and language disorders, and their translation to evidence-based clinical practice.