Jana Iverson, Renowned Movement and Communication Development Researcher Joins Department of Physical Therapy

Jana Iverson, PhD, an internationally recognized scholar in child development, will join the faculty at Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College as a Professor of Physical Therapy, beginning September 2022.

Iverson’s research breakthroughs revealed the pivotal connection between early motor development and emerging communication and language skills in infants and toddlers. In particular, she has studied how delays or deficits in motor skills can lead to cascading developmental effects extending well beyond the motor domain.

She joins Sargent College from the University of Pittsburgh where she was a professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Psychology. As director of Pitt’s Infant Communication Lab, she worked to advance an understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), studying the relationship between motor activity, postural control, locomotion, communication, and language in infants with an autistic or neurotypical older sibling.

Sargent’s appointment of Iverson is one of many focused efforts to advance the College’s interdisciplinary expertise in pediatrics, ultimately enhancing rehabilitation outcomes through cutting-edge pediatric research, education, and outreach.

“Iverson’s work with children who have autism spectrum disorders demonstrates the importance of motor development to the cognitive and linguistic development of a child and adds to the formidable intellectual pool of autism researchers at Sargent and BU,” says Sargent College Dean Chris Moore. “In addition to generating important new knowledge, her work at Sargent will provide a range of new research opportunities for students across disciplines.”

Iverson received a PhD in psychology from The University of Chicago and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Indiana University. She is the chair of the NIH Autism Speaks Baby Siblings Research Consortium’s Motor Development Work Group and an international investigator at the Italian National Research Council in Rome, Italy. She is co-editor of the book, “The Nature and Functions of Gesture in Children’s Communication: New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development” and author of more than twenty articles on the relationship between gesture and language in children’s communication. She is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Child Language, Cognitive Semiotics, Frontiers in Developmental Psychology, and Language Learning and Development, Infancy and is a regular member of conference review panels for the Society for Research in Child Development and the International Conference of Infant Studies. She is the recipient of the University of Pittsburgh’s highest honor for research, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award, as well as the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Iverson and her team to the Sargent community, and can’t wait to see how her perspective will broaden the clinical and scientific impact of our students, clinicians, and researchers,” said Moore. “When development is delayed or disrupted, the discovery of basic developmental mechanisms and their interactions across domains will yield powerful new opportunities for treatment.”