Susan Goldin-Meadow is the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. A year spent at the Piagetian Institute in Geneva while an undergraduate at Smith College piqued her interest in the relationship between language and thought, interests she continued to pursue in her doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. 1975). At Penn and in collaboration with Lila Gleitman and Heidi Feldman, she began her studies exploring whether children who lack a (usable) model for language can nevertheless create a language with their hands. She has found that deaf children whose profound hearing losses prevent them from learning the speech than surrounds them, and whose hearing parents have not exposed them to sign, invent gesture systems which are structured in language-like ways. This interest in how the manual modality can serve the needs of communication and thinking led to her current work on the gestures that accompany speech in hearing individuals. She has found that gesture can convey substantive information – information that is often not expressed in the speech it accompanies. Gesture can thus reveal secrets of the mind to those who pay attention.
Professor Goldin-Meadow’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the March of Dimes, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke. She has served as a member of the language review panel for NIH, has been a Member-at-Large to the Section on Linguistics and Language Science in AAAS, and was part of the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development sponsored by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine and leading to the book Neurons to Neighborhoods. She is a Fellow of AAAS, APS, and APA (Divisions 3 and 7). In 2001, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship which led to books, Resilience of Language and Hearing Gesture. In addition, she edited Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Thought in collaboration with Dedre Gentner. She has received the Burlington Northern Faculty Achievement Award for Graduate Teaching and the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Chicago and received a mentor award from Division 7 in APA. She gave the Nijmegen Lectures in 2004. She has served as President of APS, President of the Cognitive Development Society, Chair of Cognitive Science, and President of the International Society for Gesture Studies. She was the founding editor of Language Learning and Development, which is sponsored by the Society for Language Development. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Science.